Protest and Organization in the Alternative Globalization Era
Research for this book was made possible by the Davis Putter Foundation, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, the Center for Culture, Technology and Work (CUNY), the Center for Place, Culture and Politics (CUNY), and Towson University.
Since the end of the Cold War, changes in the structure of national sovereignty and the emergence of supranational institutions have been accompanied by a redistribution of power among states, mar- ket actors, and civil society. After a half century of intense polariza- tion, the dual superpowers system gave way to a new arrangement that could accommodate a diversity of cultures, political systems, and people under a unique layer of authority known as Empire. These changes are associated with the increasing dominance of the neolib- eral paradigm of globalization, a political-economic system of devel- opment, which, by the end of the 1980s, had become so firmly rooted in the common sense that Francis Fukuyama would resolutely declare its triumph and the “End of history.”1
Neoliberalism has been called many things, from progressive social movement to dystopia; but it is primarily a political, social, and eco- nomic system characterized by the privatization of public services, deregulation of industry, lowering of trade barriers, and reduced pub- lic spending on social services. Its underlying ethos reflects a view of human freedom as best realized through free market activity, unregu- lated competition, and private property rights protected by the neolib- eral state. In keeping with this logic, neoliberalism tends to prefigure individuals as rational, calculating actors whose value is measured by their ambition, work ethic, ability to self-manage, and capac- ity to assume responsibility for their life circumstances, rather than look to society for answers. Neoliberal institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have attempted, with a great deal of success, to extend the system to the far reaches of the globe, primarily through debt, structural adjustment, and “free” trade. Notwithstanding claims to “small government,” deregulation, and democratic freedom, neolib- eralism relies heavily on these regulatory institutions, as well as state power (dictatorial and otherwise) to secure property rights, establish monetary policy in times of crisis, and exploit new markets.
Despite Fukuyama’s brash claim, critics from both sides of the Republican/Democrat aisle have emerged in the decade of the twenty- first century to debate the merits of deregulation in the wake of what many call “the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression” (CNN, 2008). High-risk speculative activity on Wall Street, enabled by pervasive market deregulation by U.S. policymakers (many of them banking large campaign “payoffs”), has stimulated fruitful debate regarding the laissez-faire system itself and whether a new form of state capitalism could help prevent corporate fraud and government corruption. The New York Times Economy section, for example, took a “hard new look” at the Greenspan legacy, highlighting his vigorous, uncontested influence on the deregulation of derivatives, a lynchpin of the current crisis, and the Washington Post went so far as to ask whether we had reached “The End of American Capitalism” (Faiola, 2008, A01; Goodman, 2008).
Prior to the rising tide of deregulation critics in the press and main-
stream political discourse, neoliberalism had given birth to a broad network of resistance movements that, like the financial system itself, was (and is) global in character. Though states continue to play a role in the development of a concerted opposition to neoliberalism, many of these movements2 and progressive organizations do not place the nation-state at the center of their politics or see it as a source of economic and political alternatives. Social democrats in Europe may lobby for a reinvigoration of the national welfare state, while left- wing presidents in South America nationalize key industries, includ- ing some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves, but these actors are also playing a major role in the development of a global resistance to neoliberalism in which local issues are being articulated as part of a larger, more ubiquitous system of exploitation. Many of today’s movement actors, including those associated with states, are attempt- ing to build alternative social and political institutions and networks outside electoral channels and unbound by national interests.
In recent years, for example, International NGOs (INGOs), based in various countries, have played a major role in unmasking rights viola- tions committed by states or providing relief and other social services in light of the decline of state-sponsored welfare services. The spread and mounting influence of international Nongovermental Organizations (NGOs) and transnational advocacy networks, at the UN for instance, have served as the impetus for widespread speculation regarding the emergence of “global civil society” as a political protagonist on par with multinational corporations and supranational (global) financial
institutions that are, in some cases, able to trump the sovereignty of nation-states in enacting policy. In fact, these actors are said to oper- ate independently of states and corporate actors, and as such, may be better suited to represent and serve the interests of “the people.” Churches—many of them supranational and politically powerful—are also important sources of support for disenfranchised people around the globe who find shelter on church property and are fed in their soup kitchens. Even in wealthy cities like New York, they take up the slack from the unraveling of safety nets for poor and middle-class people.
Alongside churches and NGOs, in the early 1990s, an expansive complex of social movements and organizations emerged to pro- test the detrimental effects of neoliberalism on people around the world. Often called a “movement of movements” to capture the way it operated in a decentralized, horizontal fashion, this global net- work consisted of indigenous peoples, human rights, feminist, and ecology movements; anarchists, socialists, and communists; trade unions and interfaith activists from a variety of backgrounds. The diverse constellation of actors that constituted the network was typi- cally misidentified by politicians, corporate leaders, and the press as the “antiglobalization movement,” in part to misrepresent the move- ments’ critique of neoliberal globalization as a critique of “progress” and “humanitarianism,” but also because some of its affiliate groups argued for a strengthening of national sovereignty against the infil- tration of supranational financial institutions in countries’ domestic affairs. The antiglobalization label also reflected some of the move- ments’ concerns, epitomized in George Ritzer’s The McDonaldization of Society (1995), over the spread of mass-produced consumer prod- ucts from the United States that was in part responsible for declines in distinctly national forms of artistic production like European cinema, or the mechanization and standardization of their production pro- cesses, as in the case of French wine.3
In an effort to combat neoliberals’ pejorative use of the “antiglo- balist” label, some activists and organizations resorted to the name “Global Justice Movement” to emphasize their orientation toward more egalitarian forms of globalization and social justice. Though popular, especially among NGOs, the title has proven to be less than inade- quate for use as an umbrella term since the philosophical and ethical meaning of “justice” varies so significantly among the movements’ con- stituents. Interfaith groups, for example, tend to derive their sense of justice from divine law and posit God as an ultimate authority. Others locate justice in a universal rule of law that they feel has been violated
by neoliberalism’s privileging of corporate interests and the subsequent uneven and undemocratic distribution of political power away from everyday people. These groups designate “civil society” and public opin- ion as key representatives of justice and acknowledge the authority of legal structures and systems of civil and political rights. While interfaith groups and those who believe in a universal rule of law may welcome the Global Justice Movement title, others reject it entirely because they do not acknowledge states, nations, deities, or existing legal systems as legitimate representatives, authorities over social life, or guarantors of freedom. Out of respect for these important differences, I use the term “Alternative Globalization Movement” or Alternative Globalization Moment (AGM) throughout this book to emphasize the movements’ common objectives to establish alternative, nonneoliberal forms of glob- alization that put “people before profits,” respect the environment, and enable a freer flow of people, ideas, and cultural forms.
Since the “Battle of Seattle”4 in 1999, the AGM’s primary focus was to organize protests at nearly every meeting of the World Bank, IMF, WTO, and G8 to demand increased accountability from these and other supranational institutions and criticize the governments and cor- porations that collude with them. In addition to building a large-scale protest network, AGM constituent groups met in 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, to form a “peoples” forum called the World Social Forum (WSF) as a countersummit to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, the renowned annual meeting of the world’s most pow- erful political and business leaders. The Forum was a reaction to criti- cisms that the AGM was elevating protest to the status of politics and failing to articulate social and political objectives beyond resistance and opposition. Although the movement raised public awareness of the adverse effects of corporate globalization, critics on various parts of the political spectrum contended that it still appeared as a loose, incoherent assortment of local and regional struggles that were short- sighted and oftentimes short-lived. In response, the AGM forged the WSF to complement its protest activities and counter neoliberalism’s “There Is No Alternative” ethic with the positive project of formulat- ing social and political alternatives, epitomized in its slogan “Another World Is Possible.” In essence, the WSF functioned as a premier meet- ing of the global left for the purpose of answering the fundamental question: When the Empire falls, what will take its place?
In concrete terms, the WSF is a collection of grassroots activists, church groups, NGOs, and civic and political leaders who meet to discuss contemporary social problems and, within the context of
globalization, develop new strategies to address them. It is an annual meeting that takes place over the course of four to five days, involving hundreds of workshops on topics varying from indigenous rights to human trafficking to resistance against U.S. imperialism and so on. It also functions as a global activist network: local and regional social forums (over 200 in total) operate in over 100 countries, spanning 6 continents. Local and regional forums focus on issues affecting their specific locales, but maintain ties to the WSF through information sharing and adherence to the WSF Charter of Principles. Unlike the AGM, the WSF does not organize centralized protest actions though it is often credited for the massive antiwar demonstration on February 15, 2003, the largest in world history involving 23.2 million participants, and is the site from which countless demonstrations, direct actions, countersummits, and lobbying campaigns have been organized and implemented on local and regional levels. In this respect, the WSF has served as a kind of clearinghouse for activists and NGOs to coordinate their advocacy projects on a transnational scale.
The WSF’s organizational form—the “open space”—was derived from the AGM’s practice of “horizontal” (nonhierarchical) organiz- ing, which attempted to avoid privileging any one participant group or individual and mitigate existing (and potential) inequalities among them by embracing their differences rather than ignoring or suppress- ing them. The paradigm of the open space was based on organizers’ desire to be as inclusive as possible—to create a physical and virtual space for civil society groups and movements opposed to neoliberal globalization, to socialize, discuss their respective projects, debate alternative economic and political models, and develop decentral- ized direct action and advocacy networks. The open space process reflected movements’ desires to create a free space for the develop- ment of alternative modes of globalization, not beholden to special interests, that could prefigure the political communities and social forms that the WSF and its constituents sought to create. Against the WEF and its focus on “economic” development, the WSF was billed as a “social” forum—an independent venue in which sociality would be privileged over private interests. Following this logic, the WSF was founded as a nonparty and nondeliberative entity: WSF organizers sought to protect it from co-optation by political party, state, and cor- porate actors and assumed that the ideological and political diversity of its participants precluded the Forum’s potential to operate as a unit and undertake concerted, deliberative, and action-oriented functions without becoming hierarchical and coercive.
The geographic, political, and cultural diversity of the WSF and its capacity to accommodate differences are often attributed to the open space model and lauded as its greatest achievement. It has also been extolled for solving the problems of social and political inequal- ity associated with centralized, hierarchical organization that have stymied progressive movements in the past. The open space has gen- erated a significant amount of debate, however, over its effectiveness in accomplishing the Forum’s antineoliberal agenda, and helping to spread the movement beyond the usual suspects. These debates are a manifestation of fundamental political divisions on the global left over questions of agency, social change, and political organization that may, at least in part, be responsible for the marginalization of progressive politics in the United States and beyond. The WSF and AGM have effectively built a base of resistance against neoliberal institutions and experimented with novel forms of democratic prac- tice, but neither of them have succeeded in bringing their message into mainstream political discourse, at least in any consistent way, or established stable organizations capable of challenging the forces of neoliberalism or replacing them with more democratic political pro- cesses and egalitarian social institutions. Only in recent months have critiques of deregulation, corporate greed, and the dangers of finan- cial speculation begun to saturate headlines, and it is likely that this crisis, along with the end of the Iraq War, will create a new political space for antineoliberal movements to realize some of their claims. In any event, the financial crisis has indeed rendered their struggle more pressing and the disjunctures among their constituent groups more significant.
The term politics, or, the political sphere, is typically used in aca- demic discourse to refer to the realm of the state, and political orga- nization, to political parties. In this book, however, these concepts are treated in their broadest historical sense, as the organizational means through which people exercise power over one another in the pursuit of good life and collectively articulate their desires in terms of the existing power relations that shape their lives, their generations, and their collective histories. The concept of political organization, and more specifically, the “party,” was first theorized by classical Marxists in the early part of the twentieth century, who were con- cerned with how to build a broad-based opposition to capitalism and develop a theory and organizational apparatus to guide the transition from capitalist to classless society. Georg Lukacs, in particular, con- ceptualized organization as more than a party in the electoral sense.
For him, political organization involves the mediation between the subjective elements of a class formation and the objective historical conditions in which it exists. It is the process through which a move- ment or class comprehends itself within larger historical processes, and, its theoretical underpinnings intermix with its practice. It is the mechanism through which social movements come to understand their power in relation to the general landscape of power relations they seek to infiltrate and contest.
Fast-forward to the twenty-first century, in which the problem of creating more egalitarian social and political structures and building movements to realize them on a massive scale remain just as crucial as it did one hundred years ago, especially in light of debates over the new power arrangements associated with globalization. In the contemporary context, AGM and WSF activists continue to grapple with a broad range of theoretical issues that inform their concepts of change and its practical application: What are the key social and political characteristics of neoliberal capitalism? Are we entering into a new phase of capitalist development? What strategies are available for social change? What organizational form(s) can best incorporate contemporary movements’ visions of change and enable them to inter- vene in the power relations and structures they seek to contest? What is the role of the state and other mediations in constructing new dem- ocratic norms and practices? How can movements overcome the lim- its of previous generations and respond to the challenges of our time, especially the crises associated with terrorism and war, economic depression, corruption, and widespread social inequality?
In A Brief History of Neoliberalism, David Harvey (2005) aptly observed that while neoliberalism’s ascendancy wrested upon an assortment of political and social factors that helped secure consent among masses of people, it was also a function of the left’s failure to offer a vision of social justice and economic prosperity that adequately took into account people’s desires for individual freedom at the level of the every day, at least to the same level of coherence as that devel- oped by neoliberal thinks tanks from the 1980s onward. This book looks at ongoing contests over political organizations among three of the most prominent groups on the contemporary left—social and liberal democratic NGOs, antiauthoritarian social movements, and political parties. While the initial chapters provide historical and ana- lytical insights into the rise, and recent delegitimization, of neoliberal models of development, the remainder explores in depth the contri- butions of various AGM and WSF actors in terms of their respective
ideas regarding social change and agency, how they balance practi- cal, political, and organizational demands of movement building with their desires for autonomy, and how they conceptualize autonomy, or freedom, itself. While these categories should be understood as “ideal types” in the Weberian sense—as an abstraction from which to draw comparisons and not a reproduction of the concrete reality of the AGM and WSF constituencies—each group possesses a distinct political history, sets of power resources, and systems of ideas that tell a great deal about the repertoires of today’s social movements, the social and political environments in which they operate, and the kinds of social and political alternatives they are creating.
1. Neoliberal Globalization: Origins and Effects
Reform, brother Lamar, Reform!
—Brother Mouzone, “The Wire”
Brother Mouzone, a Black Muslim hitman and avid reader of the left magazine, the Nation, uttered the above statement to his sidekick Lamar with more than an air of cynicism during the tenth episode of the third season of “The Wire.” Standing outside a vast fenced-in demolition site, adjacent to a sign that reads “Pardon Our Dust. Building a New Future for Baltimore,” Lamar asks Mouzone why the high-rise housing projects in West Baltimore (a.k.a. “The Towers”) had been torn down. Brother Mouzone responds “Reform!”—the same explanation given, without irony, to residents of New Orleans’ largest housing projects when the City Council decided, with Christmas just around the corner, to raze their homes. Whereas “reform” may have once referred to efforts to combat social inequal- ity through land and resource redistribution, for the City Council of New Orleans, “reform” has meant “mixed income housing” and the selling off of public services. For the people of New Orleans and Baltimore—and other poor and predominantly black cities ruined by neglect and neoliberal “development”—it has meant displacement and homelessness.
In order to understand the dynamics of neoliberalism and its sig- nificance one must first start with its predecessor and antithesis, Keynesianism, the prevailing economic paradigm in the United States (and beyond) from the 1930s to the 1970s. John Maynard Keynes was a British political economist and financier from Cambridge University
who went against the grain of neoclassical, laissez-faire economics by promoting a macroeconomic program of compromise between the state and private industry. In broad strokes, Keynesianism, or “demand side economics,” focused on overcoming recession and sta- bilizing the economy through government monetary and fiscal pol- icy. Monetary policy involved controlling interest rates to stimulate the economy and fiscal policy stabilized employment and kindled demand (Palley, 2005:20).
Despite initial resistance in the Roosevelt administration, Keynesianism served as an antidote to the massive unemployment and recession of the Depression era, and in the wake of planned econo- mies in communist and socialist countries, the New Deal was his and FDR’s way of saving capitalism from its crisis-prone self. Whether Keynesianism, or the war effort, laid the foundations for recovery remains open to debate. Nonetheless, the Keynesian model sustained broad appeal amidst the devastation wrought by World War II and postwar reconstruction, and Keynes himself was present at the land- mark UN Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire in 1944, which was also attended by representatives from 43 countries. The goal of the Bretton Woods conference was to prevent war and other forms of conflict by restructuring international economic relations in such a way as to safeguard against worldwide economic depression. This restructuring involved restoring order and rebuilding the postwar economy through the provision of financial support (loans) for reconstruction as well as the invention of new, cooperative systems of economic development that could operate on a global scale. To that end, Bretton Woods resulted in a series of inter- national agreements that were designed to establish a stable system of international trade based on fixed exchange rates calculated in
U.S. dollars, convertible into gold at a fixed price.
Bretton Woods also gave birth to two key institutions charged with facilitating reconstruction efforts and the development of a coopera- tive transnational economy: the World Bank and IMF. Initially called the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank was established to provide and manage aid to individual countries for postwar reconstruction. The broader task of fostering economic stability on a global scale was left to the IMF, whose charge was to prevent another economic depression by providing loans to stabilize the international trade system as a whole by helping coun- tries meet their balance of payments and facilitating trade agreements among them.
During this period, what David Harvey (2005) and others iden- tify as “embedded liberalism”—a term initially theorized by John Ruggie—was being practiced on both sides of the Atlantic: both the United States and Western Europe viewed the state as an important player in providing social welfare to their citizenry and regulating corporate activity (10–11). Despite the primacy of the Keynesian par- adigm throughout the early and middle part of the twentieth cen- tury, however, it was by no means unanimously accepted among economists, especially those seated within the neoclassical tradi- tion. Keynesianism itself was not a pure science and American and European versions diverged over the issue of income distribution, reflecting their distinct political orientations, one toward liberal democracy and the other, social democratic. Neo-Keynesians in the United States accepted the view of income distribution and labor costs as best determined by market forces, a “pay what you are worth” scenario. By contrast, post-Keynesians in Europe argued that income should depend on institutional factors, not only labor supply and the availability and cost of raw material, but on labor bargaining power and environmental protections as well, which require government regulation (20–21). According to Thomas Palley, neo-Keynesianism’s convergence with neoliberalism over issues of wages, union activity, and fiscal policy may have opened the door for neoliberalism’s ascen- dency, which was also abetted by the U.S. culture of individualism and powerful antiunionism, epitomized in the passing of the Taft- Hartley Act and the violent repression of strikes by police (21–22; Piven and Cloward, 1979). Despite these differences, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, embedded liberalism was beginning to fail in both contexts. Keynesians did not conceive that inflation and stagnation could go together, but the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) crisis increased the costs of production, and infla- tion occurred because of excessive demand, which resulted in eco- nomic and political crises around the world, and inevitably enabled neoliberals to discredit the demand side model (Harvey, 2005:12).
Neoliberalism was the brainchild of Friedrich von Hayek, an Austrian political philosopher associated with the Chicago School of Economics. In 1947, von Hayek formed a study group called the Mont Pelerin Society, named after the Swiss spa where the Society first met, which included such notables as Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises. Members of the Society called themselves “liber- als” to highlight their commitment to personal freedom as well as their antagonism to Keynesianism, which they equated with socialism.
The philosophical basis for the Society’s political economic (neolib- eral) program can be found in the work of an early member of the Society, Karl Popper. Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies, published in 1944 and written during World War II and the consoli- dation of the Stalinist regime, waged an adamant attack on (Marxist) historicism, which Popper identified as a theoretical justification for authoritarianism. For Popper, human history was indeterminate and unknowable and efforts at prediction or theorizing of historical laws were acts of oppression. His politics were rooted in his view of human knowledge as an engine of social development and conclusion that such development was not predictable. An open society was one in which no single person held a monopoly on truth. An open society enabled debate and the expression of a plurality of views, and the production and interrelation of these views and interests must be pro- tected at all costs and social institutions be put in place to serve that purpose. The rule of law, a democratically elected government, and a vibrant civil society were the stuff of an open society, as was respect for difference and multiculturalism.
In Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach, which pro- vided the philosophical grounding for The Open Society and Its Enemies, Popper bases his “ontological pluralism” on the distinction of three separate, but overlapping worlds: the physical, the mental, and the intelligible (the realm of ideas). For Popper, the world of ideas may be a product of the human mind (the second world), but once ideas are produced, they become autonomous—that is, for Popper, ideas can be disembedded from the historical conditions of their production and act autonomously. A second presupposition in Popper is that there are certain objective truths about the physical world that are not directly observable or knowable; that is, they are not locatable in a particular class experience or historical moment. He puts forth an evolutionary view of the world that understands knowledge production as involving processes of trial and error and experimentation. For Popper, a closed society is one in which the evolution of ideas is thwarted by dogma- tism, which he associates with Marxism. An open society, on the other hand, evolves away from dogma and toward “rational criticism” of existing theories by any and all of society’s members; the “fittest” ideas—focused on solving social problems—survive. An open society is one that creates the conditions (the freedom) to criticize established theories and propose alternatives (Lessnoff, 1980).
Neoliberalism advocates “supply side” economics, which locates the seeds of economic growth in incentives for production and
adjustments to both income and taxes on capital gains. Contrary to Keynesianism’s focus on state support, neoliberals argue for a free market, maximal competition, free trade, deregulation, and trade lib- eralization (Brown, 2005; Palley, 2005). Rooted in Popper’s concept of the open society, which informed George Soros’ “Open Society Institute” and Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom (written in 1962), neoliberalism posits human freedom and dignity as bases for democ- racy, against the threat of fascism, communism, and other kinds of state control, with an understanding of freedom as best realized through free market activity and private property rights.
the Neoliberal State
Despite claims to “small government” and its emphasis on democ- racy as constitutive of the good life, countless theorists have dem- onstrated how neoliberalism relies heavily on state power and supranational financial institutions like the IMF to protect property rights, set monetary policy in times of crisis, and develop new mar- kets (Harvey, 2005:5). One of the first experiments in applying the neoliberal model was staged in Chile in 1973 with the installation of the Pinochet regime, which was achieved through a violent mili- tary coup, covertly facilitated by the U.S. government on September 11 of that year. The coup resulted in the death of the democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, whose socialist orientation posed a threat to U.S. interests in the region. Presidential elections were held in 1970, and Allende had won a majority of votes, despite U.S. efforts to unseat him. Richard Nixon admits to having directed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to “make the Chilean economy scream” in hopes of preventing the nationalization of the U.S.-owned copper companies in the region as well as other elements of Allende’s social- ist program, including land redistribution. The Chilean economy was beset by hyperinflation at the time, as was much of the region, and CIA plots to instigate strikes in the trucking industry only further exacerbated the situation (Reel and Smith, 2006).
Once installed, Pinochet reoriented the economy according to the whims of “the Chicago boys,” the Chilean economists at the University of Chicago in the 1950s trained in developing anticommunist strategy in Latin America. Under Pinochet and the influence of the Chicago group, who arranged Milton Friedman’s controversial meeting with the dictator, a series of free market reforms were implemented: the econ- omy was opened to foreign investment, state-owned enterprises sold
to private companies, social welfare programs abolished, and prop- erty and capital gains taxes cut. Directly against the neoliberal claim for minimal state involvement in economic affairs—not to mention Friedman’s expressed interest in human freedom—the Chilean state imposed neoliberal reforms with brutal force. State repression against labor unions and left-wing social movements established Pinochet as one of history’s most brutal dictators (Colas, 2005:75–76). According to the Washington Post, his government was responsible for the death of over 3,000 people and the torture of 29,000 more, most of which occurred in 1973 when the United States was intimately involved in establishing his presidency. Moreover, Chilean investigators uncov- ered millions of dollars in state funds that Pinochet stored in overseas bank accounts, including $8 million in a Riggs Bank in Washington, DC, and 10 tons of gold, worth roughly $160 million, in a bank in Hong Kong (Reel and Smith, 2006; BBC News, 2006).
In other parts of the world, neoliberalism gained strength in the late 1970s and early 1980s by an entirely different set of methods, most notably under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain and Ronald Reagan in the United States. Thatcher’s electoral success was largely due to her antagonism to trade unions, which by the time of her election, had fallen into ill repute with voters. Prior to Thatcher’s inauguration, miners had been staging large-scale strikes because their wages were not commensurate with the rising rate of inflation. At first, the strikers enjoyed mass public support and the Labor government settled in their favor, against attempts at a political coup by the Conservative Party. When the Labor government could not live up to the terms of the settlement, it turned to the IMF, which stipulated cuts in welfare expenditures as a precondition for obtain- ing an IMF loan. When the Labor Party still failed to control stagfla- tion (inflation and economic stagnation), every one from gravediggers to hospital and sanitation workers went on strike during the 1978 “winter of discontent”; the trash piled in the streets and bodies that went unburied helped turn the media, then the public, against the unions, opening the door for Thatcher’s victory (Dowling, 2006; Harvey, 2005:57–58).
Thatcher’s almost fanatical dedication to neoliberal dogma was reflected in her impressive dossier of economic reforms and accom- panying ideological program, largely influenced by Popper and von Hayek, that involved dramatic appeals to the virtues of individual freedom—“there is no such thing as society, only individual men and women . . . and families.” Moreover, she shrewdly and tirelessly rallied
against union bureaucracy and the welfare state, which were both rooted in class traditions that were being challenged on all sides of the political spectrum at the time (Harvey, 2005:59–61). Thatcher’s program of fiscal responsibility involved curbing trade union activ- ity, privatizing public industries, and enabling the flow of foreign investment. She cut into the unions by inviting foreign investment and competition, which resulted in the transfer of domestic industries, like automobile manufacturing, shipbuilding, and steel, into foreign hands. She also cut deals with foreign and domestic entrepreneurs to sell off state-owned industries, including airline, telecommunications, electricity, transportation, and energy services. Thatcher’s privatiza- tion plans involved firing masses of employees to streamline opera- tions and render state assets more attractive to buyers. In addition, much of the country’s public housing was sold at low prices, feeding into the middle-class dream of owning a home. During the Thatcher ministry, unemployment rose to 10 percent and trade unions were nearly wiped out (Harvey, 2005:59–61; George, 1999).
The same year Thatcher was voted into office, Paul Volker was made head of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Volker crusaded against inflation by undoing fiscal policy, which resulted in a surge of unemployment and rise in interest rates that crippled debtor countries, especially those in Latin America. Volker remained in his post during the Reagan years and was one of the main authors of the administration’s mas- sive overhaul to the economy under the mantra of “Reaganomics.” Reagonomics involved fighting inflation through fiscal austerity, tax reductions (especially for corporations and wealthy people), and deregulation, which meant removing price controls on energy, tele- phone, and transportation services, among others. Labor took major hits during Reagan’s presidency, including the landmark firing of 11,000 federal air traffic controllers who struck over issues of poor working conditions, including long hours. Low taxation encouraged investment and the development of new financial markets allowed many companies to move production to right-to-work states in the south or overseas to enjoy low labor costs—all of which severely dis- abled labor union activity in the United States, perhaps permanently. Reaganomics was abetted by an ideology that lauded the benefits of flexible work arrangements against the bureaucracy of labor unions, and associated unemployment with lack of ambition and personal responsibility. According to Reagan, the economic ills of the 1970s could be cured through entrepreneurial activity, a rollback of govern- ment involvement in economic affairs, and tax breaks at the top of the
income scale, along with other corporate incentives. Wealth would simply “trickle down” to the masses. But it didn’t: the Reagan era saw dramatic increases in poverty rates, income inequality, and homeless- ness (DiFazio, 2006:5–7; Kloby, 2003:52–55).
Moreover, the Savings and Loan crisis, a by-product of deregu- lation imposed by the neoliberal state, cost the United States an estimated $160 billion (the 2007 value totals roughly $397 billion, over half the amount of the $700 billion bailout authorized by the
U.S. Congress in 2008). The crisis was preceded by a scandal by a group known as the “Keating 5,” a group of senators linked to Charles Keating, the president of Lincoln Savings and Loan in the 1980s. Keating had developed extremely close ties to five senators, including 2008 presidential candidate John McCain, for whom he contributed some $112,000 in campaign funds as well as private vacations for the McCain family. Keating was well known for his lobbying skills and rallying against the regulation of the banking industry, includ- ing the Direct Investment Rule, which limited the amount of funds a Savings and Loan could invest directly in property. Normally a bank would take the funds deposited by its customers and reinvest them in order to produce more capital. The Direct Investment Rule limited this in order to minimize the risk to those funds and prohibit bankers from using the money to support their own businesses or investments. Keating used $615 million of Lincoln’s money to do just that. When regulators discovered these activities, Keating called a meeting with the five senators (all of whom were receiving campaign contributions from him) and implored them to ignore the rule. With the rule in sus- pension, 747 Savings and Loans engaged in similar behaviors, thereby bankrupting the entire industry and precipitating a massive bailout in the amount of $3.4 billion. Keating ended up going to jail and McCain and the others were “written up” for poor judgment (Brooks, 2008).
the Global Neoliberal State
In addition to solidifying the neoliberal paradigm on both sides of the Atlantic, the Reagan and Thatcher years brought significant changes to the workings of the World Bank and IMF. Former chairman of Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors and ex-chief economist of the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz describes these changes as part of a “purge” that occurred in the World Bank at the time, which involved a changing of the guard from the McNamara presidency of the late
1960s and 1970s, to that of William Clausen and chief economist Ann Kreuger. According to Stiglitz, McNamara’s team of advisors were genuinely concerned with the elimination of poverty and govern- ments’ roles in stabilizing failing markets in developing countries in stark contrast to the Clausen-Krueger administration, which viewed private industry as a vanguard of economic development and the free market as a universal salve to economic crisis (Stiglitz, 2003:13–14).
During the Clausen-Krueger period, the IMF’s and World Bank’s work became more intertwined. The World Bank moved beyond small-scale lending and went into the business of making structural adjustment loans, which required IMF approval that often meant strict austerity measures and market liberalization. In order to join the IMF and be eligible for loans, countries must deposit an amount of money called a “quota subscription,” which determines the extent of their loan eligibility as well as their voting rights—that is, the more money a country deposits, the greater say it has in the affairs of the IMF. When a member country needs an IMF loan, it must conform to IMF-determined economic reforms. The content of these reforms ini- tially conceived at Bretton Woods, and lasting into the 1970s, reflected a Keynesian approach that emphasized the role of the state in creat- ing jobs and stabilizing markets, but in the 1980s this tendency was replaced by a free market approach to development known as the “Washington Consensus.” Coined by John Williamson, senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics and former advisor to the IMF, the Washington Consensus referred to the seeming “consensus” among the IMF, World Bank, and U.S. Treasury over issues related to economic development and crisis management, especially in Latin America. More specifically, it signified their consensus in implementing the spread of neoliberal practices around the world, including privatiza- tion of public services and industries on a massive scale, lowering trade barriers for foreign investment and competition, deregulating markets, and imposing extreme fiscal austerity (Palley, 2005:25). One of the most notable achievements of the Washington Consensus was the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed in 1992 to promote free trade among Mexico, Canada, and the United States, that was part of a larger complex of trade agreements managed by the WTO.
Initially conceived at Bretton Woods, the WTO was established on January 1, 1995 to serve as an umbrella organization for over two dozen trade agreements on issues ranging from industrial goods, services, agriculture, and intellectual property, as well as standards on labor and environmental controls. Although the WTO is distinct
from the World Bank and IMF in that it proceeds through rounds of trade negotiations among member countries (and enforces those agreements), it has emerged as a key member of this global neolib- eral trinity (George, 2006; Munck, 2005). In the case of Mexico, for example, NAFTA was prefigured by privatization and fiscal austerity efforts imposed by the World Bank in the 1980s as part of the Bank’s first structural adjustment lending program. Negotiated during the De la Madrid presidency, the terms crippled the nation and resulted in a surge of crime and severe lack of government spending on basics such as trash removal, health care, water, and transportation. In the 1990s under Salinas, Mexico was further privatized and public sector industries were sold off to foreign investors, including agri- culture, which was a protected domain for the nation’s peasant pop- ulation. The wave of privatization starved the peasant population, but Mexican entrepreneurs made millions, if not billions, from the program (Harvey, 2005:101–103). Oxfam International reported that in the seven years that followed the signing of NAFTA, foreign own- ership of the banking system increased to 85 percent while lending to Mexican businesses dropped from 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 0.3 percent, severely affecting small businesses and rendering Mexico vulnerable to capital flight, as evinced by the “tequila crisis” in 1995 that spread to other parts of Latin America and the rest of the developing world (Jones, 2007).
Trade liberalization under the auspices of the WTO has negatively affected domestic industry in many parts of the world, especially agriculture in developing countries. Trade protections, such as high tariffs and import quotas that helped keep small producers competi- tive in local markets, were lost after the signing of the Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) in 1995, which forced open agriculture markets in these countries. Developed countries’ agriculture markets were heavily subsidized, which lowered market prices and rendered their agriculture noncompetitive. The lack of trade protections essentially destroyed local production and wrecked havoc on social life in these regions. For example, in India, where the cotton industry had been plagued by low priced (subsidized) cotton imports and the high costs associated with Monsanto’s monopoly on seeds (which self-destruct so they must be rebought on an annual basis), the situation precipi- tated a wave of farmer suicides numbering in the tens of thousands (Shiva, 2005; Bello, 2007).
In addition to trade liberalization, neoliberalism has ushered in dramatic increases in financial sector activity, even among
production-oriented companies. Lucrative financial services— insurance, credit, currency speculation—can make up for losses in production, and in the 1980s, finance was freed from the encum- brances of government regulation, which provided new opportunities for investment and enabled a freer flow of money around the globe. The results were staggering: “The total daily turnover of financial transactions in international markets, which stood at $2.3 billion in 1983, had risen to $130 billion by 2001” (Harvey, 2005: 161). Or, as Paul Krugman (2009) reported, “the sector officially labelled ‘securi- ties, commodity contracts and investments’ has grown especially fast, from only 0.3 percent of the G.D.P. in the late 1970s to 1.7 percent of the G.D.P. in 2007.” Colossal fortunes have been made in the finan- cial sector, especially through hedge funds, derivatives, and futures, but with speculation and risk as its mainstay, the rise also introduced a high level of volatility into the global economy as well as unprece- dented opportunities for fraud.
In Argentina, for example, the domestic banking industry was dominated by foreign banks, a trend introduced during the presidency of Carlos Menem. In addition to lowering trade barriers and privatiz- ing state-owned enterprises, Menem pegged the Argentine peso to the U.S. dollar to control inflation and secure foreign investment. As in Mexico and elsewhere, unemployment in the country rose precip- itously as did all measures of social inequality, but foreign invest- ment continued to flow into the country at an average annual rate of 8 percent from the middle of 1990 to 1994. In December 1994, how- ever, the Mexican peso was devalued significantly as a result of the
U.S. Federal Reserve’s increase in interest rates under Volker, which set off alarm bells for investors around the world, especially those with stakes in Latin America. The Argentine banking system lost 18 percent of its deposits, but maintained the peg to the U.S. dollar in accordance with the IMF’s mandate for the country. When the East Asian crisis hit the global economy by storm, foreign investors lost confidence in developing countries. As a result, the debt in Argentina doubled between 1994 and 2001 and interest payments soared into the billions. Despite a $6 billion IMF bailout, the banking system lost over 17 percent of its deposits in 2001. With the country in dire straits, the IMF refused another bailout and the country defaulted on its loans. The government decided to restrict bank withdrawals and, in 2002, the peso was devalued. Savings accounts containing $3,000 or higher were frozen and dollar amounts were treated as pesos, which reduced the amounts of savings to a third of their previous
value (Harvey, 2005:107). Massive social and political unrest ensued, with many—including the New York Times—pointing to the IMF and United States as instigators of the crisis:
Argentina’s declaration of a moratorium on repayment of its foreign debt marks the end of a failed economic experiment that has cost this country dearly. But it is also a blow to the United States and the International Monetary Fund, which had invested much of their credi- bility and prestige here, yet proved unwilling to help when things began falling apart. “I think this is going to end up being a very costly expe- rience for the United States,” Walter Molano, chief of research for BCP Securities, a brokerage firm based in Connecticut that focuses on Latin America, said today. It was very clearly the Department of the Treasury that pushed Argentina over the edge and allowed it to collapse, so I think the issue of accountability has to come up. (Rohter, 2001)
the “crooked E”
The same year as the collapse of the Argentine economy, another cri- sis hit the world of finance, this time within U.S. borders in the great states of California and Texas. While scandals were nothing new to the corporate world, Enron was unique in the scope and audacity of its fraudulent activities: it implicated some of the largest banks and corporations in the world, including Credit Suisse First Boston, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and Arthur Andersen, and manufactured an energy crisis that rocked the entire state of California. One of the largest corporate bankruptcies in history, the “Crooked E” became an international symbol of corporate dishonesty and greed, and per- haps more importantly, threw a suspicious light on some of neoliber- alism’s prized implements, from wild financial speculation and risk, to political corruption and government deregulation.
Enron was founded in 1985 by Kenneth Lay, a former employee of the Federal Power Commission and economist at the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. Enron was based in Houston, Texas, and in its hey- day, employed roughly 22,000 people. It was one of the world’s largest electricity, natural gas, pulp and paper, and communications compa- nies, claiming revenues (in 2000) of $111 billion. For six years in a row, Fortune Magazine voted Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” and the company enjoyed a blue chip stock rating for several years.
While Enron initially operated as an energy supply company, like many ambitious corporate entities in the 1990s, it expanded its
portfolio to include financial products, thereby revolutionizing the industry by turning energy into financial instruments that could be traded. Soon after Enron began trading energy, it moved on to other areas, including bandwidth and even weather derivatives. Enron executives, especially Kenneth Lay, had been staunch advocates of deregulation and lobbied California politicians and the federal gov- ernment to deregulate energy in the state. California fought deregu- lation for fear that it would cede too much power over price control to traders. In 1996, the electricity utility was deregulated in the state of California under governor Pete Wilson, but it involved a complex system of rules to guide the system and protect consumers from price increases. Enron’s response to what it perceived as a lame attempt at deregulation was to locate exploitable loopholes in blatant disregard for the rules, and more importantly, against the public interest in cap- ping the price of electricity.
In 2000 and 2001, Enron created fake energy shortages and increased prices for California utility companies, who, subject to price controls, were paying more for electricity than they could charge customers. Enron traders accomplished this feat through a variety of methods. Since California’s utilities partially depended on the import of electricity from states like Oregon and Washington, a drought in the summer of 2000 reduced the amount of power available for California. Although California’s power supply was never less than the demand, its reserves were low enough that during peak hours Enron, and its cadre of power plants, could manipulate supply and demand and force grid managers to buy electricity on the “spot mar- ket,” which was extremely volatile (and in this case, expensive). The energy spot market allows producers to negotiate prices with buyers almost instantaneously and deliver the energy to the customer soon after. They tend to attract speculation because prices are available as sales are made. Enron traders would export energy out of the state of California, thereby increasing demand, then resell it at a higher price back into the state. Or, they would increase perceived demand by getting power plant employees to stage fake maintenance shutdowns during peak hours. In addition, traders capitalized on side bets (they traded) on the price of energy, which, of course, they directly con- trolled. In short, Enron traders manipulated the demand for energy by creating an appearance of scarcity, then raised prices through the roof—from $24 to $40 per megawatt hour to $750 per megawatt hour overnight—and booked record profits. The bogus shortages and price increases bankrupted local utility companies and the rolling
blackouts left many people, not to mention schools, hospitals, and other essential institutions, without electricity (McLean and Elkind, 2003:272). Tapes of phone transactions were released in May 2004, in which Enron traders joked about how they were stealing millions of dollars a day from California and “Grandma Millie,” while bring- ing Enron heavy profits (Oppel, Jr., 2004).
The debacle in California was just one of many of the company’s fraudulent activities that were, in large part, linked to the more per- vasive logic of risk and deregulation in the world of finance. For example, under approval of the prestigious accounting firm Arthur Andersen, Enron used “mark to market” accounting practices—they listed assets based on market value—but they single-handedly set these values since the financial products they were trading were so new. Moreover, Enron inflated the value of their assets and recorded profits, even when a given deal or investment turned out to be a loss. The company maintained an appearance of growth by creating thou- sands of shell companies to harbor debt and tax accountability. As such, the stock value was always much larger than the actual value of the company’s assets.
Some executives sold their stock when the values were at their highest, $90 per share, raking in millions of dollars. Knowing full well that Enron was a house of cards, Lay told investors that the price would likely increase to $130 or higher. When the prices dropped, he advised continued investment in supposed anticipation of a rebound. When the scandal began to break, employee shares were frozen, while that of the executives continued to sell. On average, Enron workers had 62 percent of their 401(k) savings tied up in Enron stock. In the end, most of them were left without a job and only a fraction of their savings. In addition to the fallout among employees, the entire finan- cial world was in a state of shock as many of the world’s premier banks and trading houses were in some way linked to Enron. Enron’s audi- tor, Arthur Andersen, a “Big Five” accounting firm, was dissolved.
While Enron clearly demonstrates the tandem dangers of deregu- lation and financialization, it also exposes neoliberalism’s intimate relationship to the state. Enron made its second largest campaign con- tribution to Congressman Phil Gramm, a key player in deregulating energy trading in California and beyond. Moreover, Gramm’s wife Wendy served as chair of the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission; according to Public Citizen, she responded to a 1992 plea from Enron by exempting their energy swap operation from gov- ernment oversight at a time when the company was fueling Gramm’s
campaign. A few days later, she resigned from the Commission and Enron appointed her to its board of directors. She served on Enron’s audit committee, collecting between $915,000 and $1.85 million in stocks and dividends, $50,000 in salary, and $176,000 in attendance fees (Ridgeway, 2002).
Enron was also one of the largest contributors to the presiden- tial campaign of George W. Bush, and former U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft received $57,499 in campaign cash from the company for his Senate reelection in Missouri in 2000. Texas attorney gen- eral John Cornyn received $158,000 of Enron’s money in campaign contributions, among many others (Kadlec, 2002). Moreover, while Democratic governor Gray Davis appealed to the federal govern- ment to set price controls on energy in the throes of the energy crisis, Kenneth Lay met with Vice President Dick Cheney and governor- hopeful Arnold Schwarzenegger to lobby for continued deregulation. Amidst significant public outcry, Gray declared a state of emergency and appealed directly to the newly elected president, George W. Bush for assistance and price control. Bush pushed the issue back to Davis, but when the Democratic Senate imposed price controls in the state, he and Lay effectively shifted the blame onto Davis, which opened the door for Arnold to assume the role of governor (Berthelsen and Winokur, 2001). The energy crisis manufactured by Enron lasted for one year and cost the state $30 billion dollars. In 2001, 20,000 “rank and file” employees of Enron lost their jobs as well as $1.2 billion in retirement funds and $2 billion in pensions. In the months before, Enron executives froze employees’ accounts and cashed in $120 billion. Enron was largely explained as an iso- lated case of a “few bad apples,” rather than a failure at the systemic level. Continued government bailouts and discoveries of corporate fraud, however, have stimulated significant debate regarding the via- bility of neoliberal economics and the broader relationship between economies and political institutions around the world, especially in the United States where misconduct at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac precipitated a full-scale housing crisis.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) was estab- lished by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 as a mechanism for increas- ing homeownership and ensuring that money remained in the housing market during economic downturns. Prior to Roosevelt, virtually
all mortgages had been short-term (roughly five years or less) and interest-only, with the principal due at the end of the loan. If the bor- rower could not repay or roll it over, the house could be foreclosed upon (Kuttner, 2008b). Under the New Deal, long-term mortgages were invented to prevent surges of foreclosure, and Fannie Mae’s pri- mary function was to buy mortgages from banks in order to replenish their money supply. Fannie Mae’s purchase of mortgages provided liquidity to banks allowing them to provide additional mortgages and thereby stimulate the housing market and expand the breadth of home ownership (Kuttner, 2008a).
In an effort to prevent the kind of speculation that led to the Great Depression, Roosevelt separated commercial from investment banks in 1934 under the Glass-Stegall Act. Investment banks could engage in high-risk behavior with their investor’s money, but they did so without government insurance. Commercial banks, on the other hand, would be insured and their risks, restricted (Klein, 2008a). Also under Roosevelt, stock exchanges and investment banks were required to provide more information to their investors, conflicts of interest were more heavily interrogated, and leverage limited to rein in high-risk speculation.
Fannie Mae was sold in 1968 to help Lyndon Johnson finance the Vietnam War, but continued to operate as a Goverment Sponsored Enterprise (GSE). As a GSE, Fannie Mae was backed by the U.S. govern- ment, which allowed it to access credit through the U.S. Treasury and enjoy tax exemptions and other benefits. The company could borrow at low interest rates, which in turn enabled them to provide mortgages with low down payments, and glean profits from the difference between the interest rates. The companies served an important social function in lowering the price of mortgages for disadvantaged and minority populations as part of the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), established during Carter’s presidency (Gross, 2008). In order to prevent Fannie Mae from monopolizing the housing market, Freddie Mac was created in 1970 such that both companies controlled roughly 90 per- cent of the nation’s secondary mortgage market. Toward the end of the decade, however, private finance firms began mimicking Fannie and Freddie, packaging mortgages into bonds and selling them to investors, which significantly increased the level of competition in the mortgage market when home values started to rise (Semuels, 2008; Will, 2008).
Subprime lending emerged in this context. In the 1970s, banks fought the CRA, but in the 1980s, took a different route and pushed for regulatory changes that would allow them to profit from the
rules (Wright, 2008). During the Reagan presidency, the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act was passed, which phased out Roosevelt era regulations, including usury laws that governed the amount of fees a bank could charge for its services. The act also lifted regulations on interest rates and allowed for second mort- gages. During this period, subprime occupied a relatively small portion of all mortgage originations (5 percent in 1994), but the boom in the housing market in the early 2000s attracted a slew of investment banks as housing securities became incredibly profitable. After the pool of low risk borrowers dried up, banks invented more high-risk subprime products that, unregulated, could be offered without credit checks, without documentation, and with untenable interest structures.
By 1992, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had experienced expo- nential growth, such that members of Congress, most notably Jim Leach (R-Iowa), became concerned about whether they were acting in the public interest or serving as “money machines” for stockhold- ers (Appelbaum et al., 2008). Congress created the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) in response to calls for increased regulation, but the Office remained weak and underfunded1 due to Fannie and Freddie’s enormous lobbying campaigns and polit- ical influence. During this period, Congress lifted regulations on the amount of reserves Fannie and Freddie were required to have on hand, thereby allowing them to increase their leverage (ibid.). In 1996, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the two companies were using government support to make profits, rather than reduce mort- gage rates for the American people. But the Budget Office was no match for the companies’ massive lobbying apparatus and generosity during election time. According to Appelbaum et al. (2008), “The companies’ political action committees and employees have donated
$4.8 million to members of Congress since 1989.”
In 1999, the Republican Congress and Bill Clinton rescinded the Glass-Stegall Act, which enabled what economists Robert Ekelund and Mark Thornton (2008) called “a floodgate of ‘creative’ finan- cial instruments backed by notes and other commercial paper . . . With Glass-Stegall, Congress . . . mitigated the tendency and temptations of banks to create massive costly externalities to society, in this case, by holding bundled mortgage-backed securities which were deemed safe by rating agencies but which ultimately failed the market test.” The economists describe the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, coauthored by none other than Phil Gramm, as a “gift to finan- cial institutions” that allowed “the credit bubble to expand to such
absurd proportions, because it allowed banks of all types to engage in increasingly risky transactions and to greatly expand the leverage of their balance sheets” (Ekelund and Thornton, 2008). This step toward further deregulation of the industry enabled Franklin Raines, Fannie Mae CEO and former head of the White House Office of Management and Budget under Clinton, to help Fannie remain com- petitive with the investment banks by leading the company into new markets at the dawn of the new millennium and accepting subprime mortgages with low borrowing standards (Duhigg, 2008; Chaddock, 2008). Gary Gensler, an undersecretary of the Treasury, attempted to limit the companies’ rapid growth by defending a bill that would increase regulation of the companies in light of their mammoth, “too big to fail” scale and questionable financial practices. Fannie Mae responded with a public relations campaign contending that Gensler was cheating 206,000 Americans out of owning a home. Under pres- sure, the bill did not get passed (Appelbaum et al., 2008).
In 2003, Freddie Mac was found to have underestimated its profits over the previous three-year period by as much as $6.9 billion, just a couple of months after the OFHEO said that the company’s accounting practices were “accurate and reliable.” As a result, both Congressional houses called for increased regulation, but the companies waged another potent PR campaign and used its supporters in Congress to thwart the development of new rules. Senator Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), for exam- ple, created legislation that enabled Congress to block the potential for the companies to go into receivership. Fannie Mae was the second larg- est campaign contributor to his campaign and his son was the deputy director of its regional office in Utah. The company was also allowed to remain on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), despite the NYSE rule to delist a company if it does not report on its financial condition. Fannie Mae was given a pass due to “national interest” (ibid.).
Just one year after the scandal at Freddie, Raines was sharply dis- missed following an investigation of accounting fraud totaling roughly
$11 billion (Dash and Labaton, 2008). Despite his misdeeds, Raines banked $90 million between 1998 and 2004, and his attendant Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Tim Howard, $30.8 million. Raines was replaced by Daniel H. Mudd, who was faced with the thorny task of bringing the company back from stock losses and changing its culture of malfeasance. Around this time, Mudd met with Angelo Mozilo, head of Countrywide, the country’s largest mortgage lender, which sold more mortgages to Fannie than anyone else (Duhigg, 2008). Wall Street companies such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and Goldman
Sachs had entered the market for high-risk securities and, according to Mozilo, were interested in obtaining Countrywide’s accounts. Fannie had already lost 56 percent of its business to Wall Street and other com- petitors in the previous year. In addition to market pressures, federal regulators were increasing Fannie Mae’s goals to provide affordable housing. As a result, Fannie Mae tripled its acquisitions of mortgages with down payments of less than 10 percent. The company’s chief risk officer, Enrico Dallavecchia, warned Mudd that a housing bubble had formed, but he was ignored and “reorganized” out of the company (ibid.). With the quality of the loans increasingly low, the company was in a high-risk situation if housing prices fell. And they did.
In 2006, housing prices began dropping sharply, creating astro- nomical rates of foreclosure. Fannie and Freddie responded by low- ering their standards even further and backing riskier mortgages, including loans that did not require proof of income, which accounted for half of Fannie and Freddie’s losses in the second quarter of 2008 (Semuels, 2008). At the same time, big investment banks started to withdraw from the mortgage lending business. According to Charles Duhigg, “lawmakers, particularly Democrats, leaned on Fannie and Freddie to buy and hold those troubled debts, hoping that removing them from the system would help the economy recover. The compa- nies, eager to regain market share and buy what they thought were undervalued loans, rushed to comply.” The White House stepped in and “adjusted the company’s lending standards” so they could buy up to $40 billion in new loans (Duhigg, 2008). Early in 2008, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson advised Fannie and Freddie to increase their reserves in order to cover losses and cushion new loans in light of the housing market’s downward spiral. He sent Robert K. Steel, a colleague from Goldman Sachs, to lay out plans to that end, but Steel made a handshake agreement without deadlines. Soon after, as the companies hinged on bankruptcy, the U.S. government engaged in a $200 billion bailout and took over its operations (Morgenson and Duhigg, 2008).
As the U.S. government picked up the pieces, a wave of foreclo- sures continued to sweep the nation, amidst a massive financial cri- sis, involving large-scale layoffs, depleted pensions, and the potential extinction of major U.S. industries. According to Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, home prices are likely to
fall enough for us to produce about 20 million people with negative equity. That’s almost a quarter of U.S. homes. If home prices are rising,
or if there’s positive equity, you can refinance or sell. But if you have negative equity, you can end up being foreclosed on . . . We’re probably headed for $6 trillion or $7 trillion in capital losses in housing . . . I think there’ll be $1 trillion of losses on mortgage-backed securities showing up somewhere. (Yang, 2008)
Krugman is also predicting a 25 percent decline in overall home prices; and in places like Los Angeles and Miami, 40–50 percent. Worse, however, are the effects of the crisis on the people for whom CRA was established. It has especially affected minority populations, who make up roughly half of the nation’s loss and whose wealth tends to be concentrated in home values. Many of the subprime loans now in default were not for first time buyers; they were refinances that are now resulting in foreclosure. As a researcher from the Center for Responsible Lending contended, “A lot of our older African Americans were house rich but cash poor. So lenders came up with these scams to siphon the wealth away” (Wright, 2008).
This seeming reversal of the Robin Hood parable—stealing from the poor to help the rich—stimulated substantial debate over the U.S. government’s $700 billion bailout of the banking industry, not only because of the high dividends in the pockets of people like Raines, but also because of the ways in which early bailout funds were mis- used, at the expense of those already hurt by the crisis. For example, the American International Group (AIG) was slapped on the wrist by a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for spend- ing $440,000 on a corporate retreat at the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort in Dana Point, California, one week after the Federal Reserve gave it an $85 billion emergency loan (FoxBusiness, 2008). AIG was just one of the many companies that gambled the market on mortgage- related assets, not to mention corporate fraud. In 2006, for example, the company made a $1.64 billion settlement with the Justice Department after being caught in bid-rigging schemes, using fraudulent insurance transactions to bolster its earnings, and underreporting its tax liabilities (Morgenson, 2006). A couple of months after the St. Regis incident, AIG gave $165 million in bonuses to its employees, spurring Obama to criti- cize the company on Jay Leno as his administration looked for ways to recoup the $100 million plus in bailout funds the company had received. The main purpose of the $700+ bailout was to provide capital for companies to increase their equity, enable them to begin lending again, and stimulate the economy overall. While AIG may cancel future golf outings to save face amidst the flurry of media attention and public outcry, the initial bailout money appeared to be facilitating mergers
and paying bonuses, salaries, and stock dividends, and not serving the American people, who were (and are, at the time of this writing) steadily losing their jobs, homes, and pensions. In addition to the $700, the Federal Reserve also provided $2 trillion worth of emergency loans to an undisclosed list of banks, without providing publicly accessi- ble information on the collateral arrangements or their values. Given the high level of market fluctuation and accounting malfeasance, such assets are difficult, if not impossible, to value with any precision. Some of the collateral used for these loans may, in fact, be worthless. On top of these very serious missteps, the Treasury Department unilaterally enacted legislation that provided tax breaks for bank mergers, which represented some $140 billion in lost revenue (Goodman, 2008).
Against claims that we are witnessing the death of neoliberalism or a turn back to the Keynesian system of the 1930s, Naomi Klein (2008b) has argued that “It’s not the banks that have been partially nationalized; it’s the Treasury that has been partially privatized by the very banks that created the crisis in the first place.” She contrasts the U.S. bailout with that in Great Britain, which involved “meaning- ful guarantees for taxpayers, voting rights on banks, seats on their boards, restrictions on executive bonuses, a legal requirement banks lend money to homeowners and small businesses” (Goodman, 2008). Klein predicts that the bailout will likely be used to limit spending by the Obama administration, thereby undercutting the social wel- fare platform that won him the election: “the money has been given to the people who need it least, and it’s going to be used to justify austerity measures imposed against those who need it most” (Klein, 2006b). Recent reports support this grim prediction, especially with regard to the health care crisis in the United States, which houses 46 million uninsured. According to CNN (reporting on a recent American Journal of Medicine study), “bankruptcies due to medical bills increased by nearly 50 percent in a six-year period, from 46 per- cent in 2001 to 62 percent in 2007” (Tamkins, 2009). At the time of this writing, Obama’s health care reform plan is being severely chal- lenged by Republicans and Democrats alike in light of a recent report that the $1 trillion plan will not cut costs as promised and is likely to increase the already steep deficit (Crowly and Henry, 2009).
Neoliberalism’s Class Realignment
In A Brief History of Neoliberalism, David Harvey argues that the spread of the neoliberal paradigm of development should be
understood, in large part, as an effort at “class realignment.” While some identify neoliberalism as a utopian program, he defines it as a political project aimed toward the restoration of ruling class power. To that end, he charts shifts in class composition, power, and wealth, from the ruins of the recessions in the 1970s to the most recent inva- sion of Iraq. While class is not a static phenomenon for Harvey, he does identify common interests, practices, and institutions prevalent among neoliberal proponents that point to the existence of a class for- mation. For example, neoliberalism’s influence in universities and the media, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, further secured its ideologi- cal development and intellectual justification, backed by a realignment of the World Bank and IMF and the proliferation of neoliberal think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institute, and American Enterprise Institute (Harvey, 2005:44; George, 1999).
In the past two decades, the WEF has emerged as one of neoliberal- ism’s most blatant shows of class power, which was part of the impe- tus for the founding of the WSF. Founded in 1971 by Klaus Schwab, a Swiss business professor and entrepreneur, the WEF’s origins can be traced to the Centre d’Etudes Industrielles (CEI), an executive busi- ness school founded in 1946 by Alcan2 to help business managers develop international careers. Schwab joined CEI in 1969 and orga- nized the European Management Symposium as part of its twenty- fifth anniversary, but over time, expanded the Symposium to cover larger economic, political, and strategic issues. As a result, the name of the meeting was changed in 1987 to the World Economic Forum and was henceforth transformed from a venue in which management experts could share their knowledge with business leaders to one in which major corporations could network with each other and develop new strategies and business paradigms (Graz, 2003).
In its own words, the WEF is a nonprofit, member-based organiza- tion of “the world’s 1,000 leading companies, along with 200 smaller businesses, many from the developing world, that play a potent role in their industry or region.” It is “an independent international orga- nization committed to improving the state of the world by engag- ing leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas” (World Economic Forum, 2006). Although it started out as a small, predominantly European event, in the 1990s, the WEF became popular among North American and Asian business elites and the number of participants increased, with the addition of high- ranking politicians, media, academic scholars, and executive officers of research foundations. In recent years, high-profile members of
the entertainment industry have attended the elite event regularly— including Bono Vox (lead singer of U2), Angelina Jolie (actor and UN High Commission for Refugees Goodwill Ambassador), and actors Richard Gere, Sharon Stone, and others—as well as select members of the press, union leaders, NGO officials, and leading intellectuals. In addition to its annual meeting, the WEF holds between 5 and 10 regional meetings per year; the choice of location often reflects its constituents’ activities in newly emerging markets (ibid.).
To qualify for membership in the WEF, a company or entrepreneur must have an annual turnover of at least one billion U.S. dollars and pay meeting and other kinds of dues, which blatantly excludes poor countries from participating. In 2002, for example, 75 percent of the WEF’s annual meeting participants were from Europe and the United States combined, despite the fact that they represent only 17 percent of the world’s population. West Asian participants were roughly five times overrepresented, and although 60 percent of the world popula- tion lived in Asia, they represented only 8 percent of WEF participants (Woodall et al., 2002). The choice of which developing countries to include in the WEF is often made strategically, according to interests in the region.3
On its Web site, the WEF describes itself as a foundation that is “impartial and not-for-profit” and not tied to “political, partisan or national interests.” The guest list of politicians at the annual meet- ing in Davos tells a different story, however: in 2000 alone, the WEF was attended by 33 national leaders, including former U.S. president Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, King Abdullah II Ibn Hussein of Jordan, Indonesian President Abdurrahman, South African President Thabo Mbeki, and then-president of Argentina, Fernando de la Rua (who would later resign during the collapse of the Argentine economy in 2001). In 2002, 27 elected national lead- ers, 3 members of royalty, 9 U.S. senators, and 9 members of the U.S. House of Representatives attended the event (ibid.).
In 2009, the meeting—the theme of which focused on “Shaping the Post-Crisis World”—attracted 41 heads of state, up from 27 the previous year (Goodman, 2009). While previous meetings highlighted the successes of neoliberal development for WEF attendees, the 2009 meeting focused on failures and a loss of faith. Bloomberg News reported on a Pricewaterhouse survey, which found that “ ‘one in five of 1,124 chief executives in 50 nations said they were very confident about prospects for revenue growth in 2009,’ while more than a quar- ter were pessimistic” (de Oliviera, 2009). George Soros compared the
financial crisis to that of the Great Depression, but claimed that that “the size of the problem confronting us today is significantly larger than in the ‘30s” (Benjamin and Kennedy, 2009).
On the other side of the class divide, the neoliberal alignment and associated crises have had drastic and oftentimes devastating effects on the lives of people in middle and lower income brackets in every part of the world. While neoliberalism continues to be imposed by force in some areas, with guns or structural adjustment policies, in other regions it was ushered in with the consent of significant num- bers of people. Part of the reason for the success of neoliberalism lay in its emphasis on freedom and autonomy, what Pierre Bourdieu described as neoliberalism’s “new order of the lone, but free individ- ual” and “cult of the winner.” But neoliberalism has produced few winners. According to Bourdieu (1998), the globalization of financial markets and development of new technologies, especially in transpor- tation and communications, allowed capital a high degree of mobility and flexibility, which in turn enabled small, short-term investors to vie for profits with large companies, significantly heightening com- petition among them. The increased intensity of competition precipi- tated a “squeeze,” most acutely on the shop floor, which accounts for the increases in rates of productivity from the Reagan era onward, high rates of unemployment that follow neoliberal reform, and the prevalence of short-term contracts and flexible, part-time jobs with- out benefits. Many of these issues were well within the domain of trade unions, but now many workers, and their managers, operate in a culture that is precarious and prone to flux.
Part and parcel of neoliberalism’s “lone but free individual” has wrested on a pervasive ethic of individual accountability, aptly summed in Margaret Thatcher’s characterization of neoliberalism in the 1980s: “Economics are the method, but the object is to change the soul” (Harvey, 2005). Thatcher’s quip referred to neoliberals’ intent to redefine social problems, such as unemployment and poverty, as issues of individual responsibility. Nowhere has this trend shown itself more obviously, and more spitefully, than in Clinton’s welfare reform act of 1996, appropriately named the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996,” which radically changed the welfare system designed by Keynes little more than a half century before. The act effectively ended welfare as an entitlement and replaced it with “workfare.” In the United States, people in need could no longer receive public assistance unless they were working or actively looking for it, nor could they “take advantage” of the system
for more than 60 months over the course of their lifetime. As Barbara Ehrenreich (2004) has pointed out, welfare reform relied heavily on public perceptions of welfare recipients as “lazy, promiscuous, gov- ernment-dependent baby machines,” a view that was encouraged by politicians and members of the media on a massive scale.
An extension of social welfare, public housing also took a major hit under neoliberal reform, fed by a similar discourse of private owner- ship and “development,” as well as individual culpability and self-care. The scene discussed in the opening vignette of this chapter depicts a very real trend in the United States: Baltimore razed its last high-rise housing projects in February 2001 and similar redevelopment pro- grams were undertaken in previous years in cities around the coun- try, including Atlanta, Philadelphia, Newark, and, of course, New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina provides an excellent case and point of neoliberalism’s tendency to shift responsibility—for homelessness, pov- erty, and broken levees (that were under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)—onto the shoulders of individuals. After tens of thousands of people were left stranded on bridges or in emer- gency situations, the federal government and agencies like the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) refused, for some time, to act or take responsibility for the infrastructure failure. Similar to Gray Davis in California, New Orleans Mayor Nagan appealed to the feds, but FEMA turned to the American public, encouraging them to volunteer and donate their time and money. At least for a time, it was all too easy to blame the victim. Public discourse focused on why the people of New Orleans did not evacuate before the onslaught of the storm—after all, DVDs were distributed in poor neighborhoods that warned residents “they were on their own in the event of a major storm” (Reed, 2006).
To make matters worse, some politicians and members of the press referred to the displaced New Orleanians as “refugees” dur- ing the crisis. The UN (1951) defines a refugee as a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, members of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable or, owing to such fear, to avail him/herself of the protec- tion of that country.” Despite the irony, the effect of the label was to create in the eyes of the public an image of the displaced people as outsiders, undeserving of government protection. New Orleans’ “refugees” are still fighting for their homes, as the city continues to deflect responsibility, both for the levee breach and for the housing needs of its underserved populations. In response to critics of the
city’s mixed income redevelopment plan, New Orleans City Council Member Shelley Stephenson Midura responded: “We need afford- able housing in this city, but public housing ought not to be the warehouse for the poor” (Saulny, 2006a). Rivaling her sympathy for the Katrina victims was Representative Richard H. Baker (2006b), who claimed, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it. But God did.” More recently, the issue of per- sonal responsibility, or what historian Charles Beard (1931) termed America’s “rugged individualism” has shown itself in policy debates over the subprime mortgage crisis and the $700 billion government bailout (31). In the throes of a major financial crisis, which was in part a result of his efforts to deregulate the U.S. financial industry, Phil Gramm called America a “nation of whiners,” while denying that a recession was taking place. He, alongside John McCain, char- acterized it as a psychological, rather than social, problem (Hall, 2008). On top of that, the subprime crisis was blamed on the CRA legislation, aimed to expand homeownership to disadvantaged pop- ulations, rather than on speculative activity on Wall Street and pred- atory lending practices.
Neoliberalism and Legitimacy
Liberalism was the political order that replaced class privilege in the nineteenth century with modern forms of constitutional democracy rooted in “abstract individualism,” which posited human selfhood as given, rather than constituted in complex social relations (Brown, 2005). Remembering Popper, it theorized the individual as a rational actor, whose humanity was defined and predicated on one’s ability and freedom to choose. While neoliberalism has maintained liber- alism’s sharp focus on the individual as such, it no longer consid- ers rational (economic) behavior as given; instead, it manufactures institutions, policies, and crises to facilitate and ensure its function— what Naomi Klein fittingly called “the Shock Doctrine.”4 Moreover, whereas liberalism once involved the protection of private property by states, the neoliberal state of today is controlled and regulated by the market, which deploys it, when necessary, in the form of monetary policy and deregulation, welfare and housing reform, and even war (Brown, 2002, 2005; Harvey, 2005). Wendy Brown has aptly termed this force “neoliberal political rationality,” which first and foremost involves the submission of politics and all other aspects of social life to the logic of the market—to considerations of efficiency, utility, and
profitability. Though not all action can be efficient and calculable, neoliberal political rationality evaluates it in these terms, and as such, has become the basis for decision making at all levels of society. In the context of this new relationship, the state does not require legitima- tion; its success is gauged in terms of its adherence to the standards of a market that seeks to remake individuals in its own image (Brown, 2005; Munck, 2005:61).
Alongside issues of state sovereignty and state-centered political power, Brown (2005) looks at the ways in which neoliberal states form subjects. Drawing from Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France, she identifies this relationship as a mode of governmentality: “techniques of governing that exceed and express state action and orchestrate the subject’s conduct toward him- or herself.” She points to neoliberalism’s tendency to prefigure individuals as rational, calcu- lating actors whose value is measured by their capacity to self-manage and assume responsibility for themselves, to “provide for their own needs and service their own ambitions” (42–44). As evinced in the above discussion on housing and welfare reform, this model reduces and depoliticizes social life into a series of individual pursuits and cost-benefit analyses, rather than toward social responsibility and ideas of the good life as collectively defined.
In reference to Western liberal democracies like United States, Brown laments neoliberalism’s foreclosure of what she calls the “inter- val” between the neoliberal political rationality of capitalism and the ethics of liberal democracy. In liberal democracies, NGOs and civil society organizations legitimate the capitalist system to some degree, but some have served as checks and sources of resistance over issues of social justice and “ethical individualism.”5 She identifies a trend away from the ethical individualism characteristic of liberal democ- racy, toward a market rationality entirely disembedded from social relations, and as such, without limits in terms of the means it will apply in realizing its goals. Take, for instance, the case of the Iraq War and the Bush administration more generally. In September 2000, just four months before Bush the second was sworn in as the forty- third president of the United States, the Project for the New American Century released its landmark “Rebuilding America’s Defenses for a New Century” report, which brazenly detailed U.S. conservatives’ blueprint for securing U.S. political and economic hegemony through extreme shows and use of force. In fact, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” positions the United States as a sole superpower whose exer- cise of power and domination relies upon its monopoly on violence;
that is, its unique ability to apply force in directing international and civil contests and, more importantly, to win them efficiently.
In broad strokes, the document advocates violent regime change in the developing world, including an emphasis on engaging multiple theaters of war. For example, the report proposes that if the U.S. mil- itary maintains enough might and capacity to engage in two separate theaters of war at once, it will have the requisite flexibility to remain dominant throughout the world. Tellingly, the two-theater approach is a residue from World War II, when the United States achieved victory simultaneously in both Pacific and European theaters. Throughout the Cold War, American military philosophy was dominated by the notion of maintaining readiness for another potential two-theater scenario. Sadly, after the fall of fascism and communism and the dissipation of any serious two-theater threat of homeland invasion, American policymakers are still employing this philosophy in the name of American hegemony abroad. As the report states, “anything less than a clear two-war capacity threatens to devolve into a no-war strategy.” Imagine that.
Since the war in Kosovo, if not before, America’s neoliberal state, along with the global network of Great Powers’ national govern- ments and leading institutions of transnational capital that constitute Empire, has made use of humanitarian justification to gain public support for wars as well as IMF and World Bank policies. Hardt and Negri (2000) have theorized this relationship in terms of Empire’s universal ethics of “peace,” which involves the deployment of a dis- tinct kind of violence that rationalizes its use on the basis of an order that transcends the interests of states, posing itself as the humani- tarian protectorate of the species. Humanitarian justification alone, they point out, is not a sufficient basis for the existence and extension of Empire’s coercive apparatus, however; Empire’s legitimacy also wrests on its ability to apply force effectively.
In her famous essay “On Violence,” Hannah Arendt criticizes the notion of violence as a mechanism of social change, especially in light of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the modern world and the danger they pose to humankind. She sets out to dif- ferentiate a variety of terms—power, strength, force (violence), and authority—that she believed were severely confused in popular, polit- ical, and academic discourse. She wrote the essay, in part, to address militant student and civil rights activists who admired the work of Georges Sorel and Frantz Fanon—both of whom saw violent resis- tance as a potentially life-affirming, creative force—and to criticize
the notion that violence could be the legitimate domain of states— that there could be such a thing as a “just” war. Arendt explains that “power is never the property of an individual; it belongs to a group and remains in existence only so long as the group keeps together.” An individual may appear to be “in power,” but his or her authority is actually conferred by a group—he or she is empowered. By con- trast, violence is coercive and requires a different relationship: it is of an instrumental nature, a means to an end that relies upon imple- ments instead of people. Arendt argues against the popular miscon- ception that force is synonymous with authority because this view erroneously elevates violence to the status of power. She counters this conventional view by pointing out that violence always demands some kind of justification and is a means toward a goal; it is never an end in itself. Power, on the other hand, is its own end: it is “inherent in the very existence of political communities” and the basis of collec- tivities and political life. Moreover, for Arendt, violence marks a loss of power; it can obliterate power and it can command obedience, but it cannot create power and for this reason, can never be legitimate. In addition to critiquing the romanticization of revolutionary violence, Arendt points out that when violence is substituted for power and the exercise of legitimate authority, there is clear and present danger that the means will overwhelm the ends—that violence and warfare will overwhelm politics and take on a more permanent, chaotic nature. Similar to the logic of welfare reform, the neoliberal political ratio- nality operative in contemporary U.S. foreign policy (but by no means limited to the United States) and its tendency toward means without ends gauges the success of the Iraq invasion more in terms of the effi- ciency of U.S. military tactics than on whether a democratic system is actually being established in the region or the toll it has taken on the lives of both the American and Iraqi people.
A similar logic is being employed by the Obama administration in redirecting American foreign policy concerns away from Iraq and toward Afghanistan. Obama opposed the Iraq War from the start, but his objections had more to do with issues of strategy than moral- ity, ethics, or pacifism. His vision of America is that of a heroic super- power, despite his proffering of a more poised approach to diplomacy and international cooperation. Like the administration he displaced, he positions the United States as a world leader that maintains the capacity to wage wars unilaterally when it sees fit. “And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and
we will take them out,” he proclaimed during a presidential debate. “We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.”6
* * *
David Harvey has pointed out that the success of neoliberalism’s abstract individualism should also be understood as the historical left’s failure to address the tensions between people’s desires for individual freedom and organizational requisites for social justice. As neolib- eralism fosters a form of autonomy rooted in private ownership and choice, competition and “winning,” it negates the freedoms associ- ated with cooperative forms of organization and structure, commons, and community life (Harvey, 2005; Bourdieu, 1998). Moreover, in its attack on historicism and detachment from social relations, it attempts to make itself true by narrowly defining the past, as well as what is possible in the future. This chapter considered the ideological and his- torical origins of neoliberalism, from a political, economic, and social perspective in order to set the stage for an evaluation of the strategies and political alternatives developed by contemporary antineoliberal movements on the left, specifically the AGM and WSF. What follows in the next chapter is a discussion and analysis of these experiments in terms of how they conceptualize autonomy in the twenty-first century and how they balance these ideas with the organizational requisites of stemming the tide of neoliberal globalization and building a more egalitarian society.
2. The Alternative Globalization Movement
and World Social Forum
the Alternative Globalization Movement
The AGM is constituted by a vast network of groups and movements, including indigenous peoples; human rights and ecology advocates; anarchists, socialists, and communists; NGO, interfaith and trade union activists; and many other left-leaning groups and individuals. Contrary to popular belief, it did not originate in Seattle, although the protests in 1999 against the WTO publicized the movement and heightened its political stakes. Its origins must be traced further back to the anti-IMF riots of the 1970s in Peru, Liberia, Ghana, Jamaica, and Egypt. The “bread riots” in Egypt, for example, were the result of a drastic increase in the price of bread, a major staple in the Egyptian diet, due to U.S.- and IMF-imposed trade policies against food subsi- dies (Global Exchange, 2001; Katsiaficas, 2001; Critchfield, 1992).
The Zapatista uprising against North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on January 1, 1994, the first day the agreement was passed into law, marked a decisive moment in the development of the AGM. Against the backdrop of decades, really centuries, of peasant dislo- cations, the Mexican government repossessed settlement land in the Lacandon Jungle in the name of bioconservation and, leading up to the signing of NAFTA in 1994, deregulated corn imports and protections on the price of coffee, which tanked the local economy. Shortly after, the Zapatistas—indigenous people of Chiapas—confronted the Mexican government, garnering widespread support among Mexicans as well as the international community (Castells, 1997:72–81). According to Naomi Klein (2002), “the strategic victory of the Zapatistas was to
insist that what was going on in Chiapas could not be written off as a narrow ‘ethnic’ or ‘local’ struggle—that it was universal. They did this by identifying their enemy not only as the Mexican state but as ‘neo- liberalism.’” The world’s “first informational guerrilla movement,” the Zapatistas’ struggle has often been cited as a critical moment in the history of left social movements in which the Internet played a vital role (Castells, 1997; Cleaver, 1998). Its broad, “universal” appeal to oppose neoliberalism, ability to rescale an indigenous struggle in global terms, and clever use of the Internet not only spurred the New York Times to declare it the world’s first “postmodern revolutionary movement,” but also provided a necessary spark for the linking of antineoliberal activism across national borders and local communities. The Chiapas Solidarity Movement, for example, organized the annual demonstra- tions against the WEF in Davos the same year as NAFTA was signed, and the Zapatista experience was a primary inspiration for the develop- ment of the Peoples Global Action (PGA), a global protest network.
The PGA network was born at an international meeting, or encuentro (encounter), called by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in 1996 to discuss common issues and tactics among anticapitalist social movements. The meeting took place in Chiapas and attracted some 6,000 participants from over 40 countries, including representatives from both the Global North and South, such as Canadian Postal Workers, mem- bers of Earth First!, European and Korean activists, Maori, U’wa, and Ogoni, and people from East and Central Europe (Grubabic, 2005a).
Many of the same groups met again in Spain in 1997, where they drafted a set of organizational principles and objectives for developing an international network of movements. These organizational principles or “hallmarks” defined the network as one without a formal member- ship or leadership, and emphasized a shared commitment to decentral- ized, autonomous (independent) modes of organization and opposition to capitalism (Peoples Global Action, 2006). Following the meeting in Spain, the PGA coordinated the Global Days of Action, the first of which took place in 1998 during the WTO Ministerial in Geneva, Switzerland. Tens of thousands of protestors participated in more than 60 demonstrations on 5 continents. Furthermore, the PGA network spawned regional activist networks, including the No Border Network in Europe1 and the Direct Action Network (DAN) of North America.
The DAN was a specifically North American formation initially founded to coordinate the demonstrations against the WTO in Seattle in November 1999 on a regional scale. Comprised of local “affinity” groups and activists interested in organizing direct action protests,
Seattle overcame the traditional antagonism between environmental activists and labor, featuring a “teamster-turtle alliance” alongside a diverse collection of groups: students against sweatshops, anti-GMO and “fair trade” activists, antimilitarists, anarchists, and so on. Although Seattle drew a relatively small number of protesters (40,000), the effects were legion: the Atlantic Journal and Constitution called the protests “one of the nation’s worst urban riots in decades” and the Washington Post asserted that “a guerilla army of anti-trade protest- ers took control of downtown Seattle forcing the delay of the open-
ing of a global meeting of the World Trade Organization” (Deans, 1999; Burgess and Pearlstein, 1999). The mayor of Seattle declared a state of civil emergency in the city and the governor brought in the National Guard (Deans, 1999). In the end, the event was declared a victory for the movement: protestors temporarily stopped the meeting and brought their claims against the WTO to the mainstream media. It also captured the attention of Hollywood elites like Stuart Townsend, who directed “Battle in Seattle,” a sympathetic reenactment of the protests (albeit with typical Hollywood storylines and romance), star- ring Charleze Theron and Woody Harrelson (Townsend, 2007).
The AGM gained substantial momentum after Seattle, staging pro- tests at nearly every meeting of the World Bank, IMF, WTO, and G82 to demand increased accountability from these and other suprana- tional institutions, and for some, to demonstrate their opposition to capitalism itself. In September 2000, for example, 15,000 protested the IMF and World Bank summit in Prague. In April 2001, 100,000 were present outside the Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA) Summit in Quebec City, which was secured by a three-meter high fence of concrete and wire. The fence encircled a large section of Quebec City’s downtown area, including the meeting site—a verita- ble fortress with a $100 million price tag (The Gleaner, 2001). In June 2001, 50,000 protested the EU-US Summit in Göthenburg (called the “Göthenburg Riots”) and just one month later, 300,000 swarmed the streets of Genoa, which was the largest of the AGM protests.
As Quebec City foreshadowed, the exponential growth in the num- bers of protesters at AGM countersummits was met with increased security and police repression. The Göthenburg protests involved a near fatal shooting of a protester by security police, but it was not until Genoa that the violence reached its apex. At the July 2001 anti-G8 summit in Genoa, which was organized by the Genoa Social Forum, police raided the Armando Diaz school complex, a “convergence cen- ter” for protesters, and a building across the street from the school
that housed the Independent Media (“Indymedia”) Center. According to various reports, dozens of people were seriously injured, includ- ing several “internationals” from other European countries. The Wall Street Journal reported:
Italian police raided a school building housing activists and arrested all 92 people inside. Afterward, the building was covered in pools of blood and littered with smashed computers. Several reporters at the school were hurt; one had his arm broken. Police said 61 of the detain- ees had been wounded in riots that preceded the raid, but neighbors described hours of beatings and screaming coming from the school during the raid. (Trofimov and Johnson, 2001)
In addition to the extreme brutality perpetrated by the Italian police both in and outside the protest route, a 23-year-old protestor—Carlo Giuliani—was shot and killed during the demonstrations. The police involved in the incident did not stand trial because an Italian com- mission concluded that the officer did not fire directly at Giuliani, but rather, the bullet that hit him supposedly was deflected mid-air by a stone. The officer who fired the bullet would later suggest that he was involved in a cover up. Shortly after issuing the statement, he was seriously injured in what the press called a “suspicious” car accident (Hooper, 2003).
In addition to Giuliani’s death and the plethora of documented cases of human rights violations against protesters, Italian police were accused of installing agents provocateurs from far right fascist groups to discredit the protest, an allegation that was later confirmed by pho- tos in the Italian press (Allen, 2001). These events—and the subsequent exoneration of the Italian police over Giuliani’s death—had a significant impact on the AGM. Ideas regarding the use of violence at protests and direct confrontation of police were widely (and hotly) debated. One of the most notable opinion pieces that circulated at the time was written by Brazilian Association of Nongovernmental Organizations’ (ATTAC) Susan George (2001), who railed against black bloc protestors,3 as well as Berlusconi and the G8, for Giuliani’s death. Other high-profile mem- bers did the same, citing the dangers of black bloc “guerilla” style pro- test, their lack of coordination with other protesters, and the problems associated with alienating the people of Genoa by trashing their city.
As if Genoa was not divisive enough, two months after the protests, the AGM was dealt a near fatal blow with the September 11 attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. It is not an exaggeration
to say that 9/11 catapulted the movement into a tailspin. All of a sudden, AGM protesters were pegged as anti-American, even by sym- pathizers, and a widespread tendency emerged in the United States, especially in New York, toward a “You are either with us or against us” kind of patriotism. While many AGM activists were intimidated by the acute crackdown on dissent, other parts of the left, mostly in the United States, were divided over the issue of whether the United States should invade Afghanistan. The response to 9/11 from the likes of Michael Walzer, Mitchell Cohen, and Christopher Hitchens, for example, ranged from downright revenge to justifications for the war as a movement for Afghani women’s liberation (Walzer, 2002; Treiman, 2003).
The September 11 attacks also exacerbated labor leaders’ reticence to get involved in a movement that could be seen as unpatriotic or terrorist, especially in light of the growing police repression at pro- tests. Despite the short-lived Teamster-turtle alliance that took place in Seattle, trade unions in the United States had been conspicuously absent from AGM demonstrations. Many people in the labor move- ment criticized the “diversity of tactics” (i.e., property destruction) used by the movements at Seattle as violent and counterproductive. After the 9/11 attacks, some members of the labor movement, such as the machinists, took a more reactionary stance, calling for “Vengeance not justice!” while AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said that unions should stand “shoulder to shoulder” with George W. Bush.
Much of the antiwar activity against the invasion of Afghanistan limped along, and was periodically overshadowed by the Second Palestinian Intifada, another highly divisive issue. AGM activists from around the world formed the International Solidarity Moment (ISM) in August 2001 to resist the Israeli occupation of Palestinian terri- tory. When U.S. President Bush announced his intent to invade Iraq, much of the energy shifted there, and a large-scale antiwar movement emerged, albeit with peace marches, vigils, and some bouts of conten- tious civil disobedience that tended to incorporate significantly less confrontational tactics than those used by the AGM.
The invasion of Iraq and the onset of the War on Terror brought many new people onto the streets. With AGM networks already in place and members of the anti-Vietnam of the 1970s and antinukes of the 1980s movements still active, an anti–Iraq War movement emerged in the United States and around the globe that was much larger—in sheer numbers—than the AGM. It also attracted more people of color, concerned not only with the war in Iraq but with the
domestic war on civil liberties and growing prejudice against people from the Middle East.
U.S. trade unions were conspicuously absent from the anti–Iraq War demonstrations. Not surprising, given that contemporary unions tend to be slow in mobilizing their memberships for any action that is not directly related to labor disputes, with the excuse that they are constrained by severe fiscal crises at both the state and national levels. The reticence, if not total inability, of U.S. labor to make the connec- tion between local labor issues and global forces of capital has created a serious divide on the U.S. left for the past several years. Despite their absence on the streets, hundreds of local and several national unions publicly expressed their opposition to the war, a significant develop- ment since most of them were vocal supporters of the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War.
Despite the autonomous and decentralized character of the AGM, most of the large-scale antiwar demonstrations were coordinated by a single organization, which in many cases created substantial con- troversy and antagonism. The organization that coordinated a large portion of them was Act Now to Stop War and Racism (ANSWER), which emerged in response to the fallout of 9/11, and in opposition to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and War on Terror. Conflicts among antiwar affiliates arose because ANSWER tried to maintain central control of the events. Some complained that the group asked protesters to put down their own banners in order to carry official ANSWER signs and thus project a united message. Others objected that ANSWER prevented certain groups from speaking at the rallies on the basis of their ideological criteria. In short, the tactics imposed by ANSWER conflicted with the notions of autonomy developed within the AGM, which was, perhaps, not surprising given the fact that ANSWER has its roots in sectarian party politics, and serves as a front group for the IAC, whose leadership is comprised predomi- nantly of former members of the Workers World Party.
In October 2002, a new coordinating organization emerged to pro- vide an alternative to ANSWER, called United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ). The political history of UFPJ organizers dated back to the antinukes movements in the 1980s, which made use of horizontal organizational tactics that differed radically from that of ANSWER. For the anti–Iraq War movement protests, UFPJ maintained an open stance with respect to broad participation and the presence of dif- ferent voices. Unlike ANSWER, which actively obscured events that it did not endorse, UFPJ worked with and advertised alternative
AGM and WSF 45
marches and protests, which set an open stage for more radical groups to engage in their own actions. The power of this mode of organi- zation was perhaps best displayed by the various illegal marches on February 15, 2003 in New York, roughly 70 in number, which were coordinated to “feed” into the large-scale, legal rally, but maintained a level of spontaneity that expanded the demonstration far beyond the confines imposed by the city and the police.
According to the BBC News (2003), between 6 and 10 million people took part in the February 15 demonstrations, in roughly 60 countries; other sources estimate the range from 8 to 30 million (Simonson, 2003). The demonstration in Rome, which alone involved some 3 million people, is listed in the 2004 Guinness Book of World Records as the largest antiwar rally in world history (Guinness, 2004). The occasion was marked by a New York Times cover story, now famous among AGM activists, that claimed “the huge anti-war demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion” (Tyler, 2003).
As a result of the invasion, many AGM activists maintained their critique of neoliberalism but linked it to the problem of war and impe- rialism. This merger did not occur across the board, however: for many AGM activists in neutral countries, Austria for instance, neo- liberalism tended to remain a primary focus of opposition. AGM pro- tests did gradually reemerge after 9/11, but on a smaller scale. The first major event occurred when the WEF temporarily moved from Davos to New York City in 2002. Explained as a show of solidarity to the people of New York, the WEF’s relocation was likely due to high security costs, which had already generated significant public outcry in Switzerland (Farrer, 2002).4 The New York protests were organized by a network called the “Anti-Capitalist Convergence” and attracted roughly 15,000 protestors. Although the demonstra- tions were relatively small in number, they disrupted the daily flow of the city, captured significant media attention, and drained mil- lions of dollars for security costs. Police were stationed at nearly every Starbucks and The Gap in Manhattan (there are hundreds) and parts of the city’s complex transportation system essentially went offline, in some cases shifting public opinion away from the WEF in favor of the protestors.
The WTO ministerial in Doha in November 2001 brought more protesters to the streets than had Seattle and when it met again in Cancun in September 2003, roughly 20,000 attended (George, 2002;
Bello, 2007). In Cancun, negotiations were stymied by the Group of 22, a bloc of developing countries that formed in response to U.S. and European proposals for increased trade liberalization policies that would adversely affect the Group’s farming industries and peas- ants. The alliance, led by Brazil, India, and China, represented over 50 percent of the world’s population and 80 percent of its farmers. On the final day of negotiations, talks collapsed when the Kenyan representative to the WTO proclaimed, “The meeting is over. This is another Seattle” and walked out (Solnit, 2003).
Prior to the collapse of the trade talks, Lee Kyung-hae, a Korean farmer and president of the federation of farmers and fisherman in his country, committed suicide in the middle of the demonstration to draw international attention to the horrific effects of WTO poli- cies on farmers around the world, especially in Asia. Wearing a sign that read “WTO Kills Farmers,” Lee stood on top of a police barri- cade and stabbed himself in front of TV cameras and other media. Following news of his death, a band of roughly 1,000 Korean farmers attempted to break through police lines at the WTO meeting in 2003, many of them members of Via Campesina (“Peasants’ Path”), a large international network of farmers from over 56 countries. Established in the mid-1990s to oppose the WTO, Via Campesina focuses on issues related to food sovereignty and the protection of domestic mar- kets and labor forces that affect “small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricul- tural workers” (Via Campesina, 2008). WTO talks were again sty- mied at the sixth ministerial in Hong Kong in 2005 and in Doha in 2006 (Bello, 2007). Antineoliberal protests continue to be staged at such meetings, though on a markedly lesser scale.
the World Social Forum
Following protests against the WEF in 2001, Bernard Cassen of the well-known French magazine Le Monde Diplomatique met with two Brazilians: Chico Whitaker, a Roman Catholic activist and former elected official of the PT, and Oded Grajew, coordinator of the progres- sive Brazilian Business Association for Citizenship (CIVES). Whitaker and Grajew suggested to Cassen that he and his group ATTAC organize a countersummit to the WEF in Davos. Cassen had founded ATTAC in concert with Susan George and Ignacio Ramonet in 1997. By the time of his meeting with the Brazilians, it had mushroomed into a large coalition of unions, farmers, and intellectuals (Klein, 2001a). ATTAC’s
primary objective was to lobby for Economics Nobel Laureate James Tobins’ proposal in 1978 for a tax on speculative financial transactions to generate monies for reducing global inequality and bolster social welfare. A major actor in the AGM, it continues to actively campaign against the WTO, tax havens, the privatization of public services, and genetically modified food (Moberg, 2001; ATTAC, 2006).
Whitaker, Grajew, and Cassen, as well as others in ATTAC, con- ceived of the WSF as a “social” encounter against the “economic” emphasis of the WEF, and more generally, as a way to resist neolib- eralism’s tendency to delink economic decisions from the social rela- tions in which they are made as well as the ones they affect. They also billed it as an opportunity to bring together some of the protagonists of the AGM and work toward the development of a common agenda, in part out of “frustration with the less coherent focus of the North American anticorporate movement.” Chrisophe Aguiton of ATTAC, who helped organize the forum, stated that “The failure of Seattle was the inability to come up with a common agenda, a global alliance at the world level to fight against globalization” (Klein, 2002). Aware of the city’s participatory programs and sympathetic political climate, Cassen suggested that the counter-Davos be held in Porto Alegre (PoA), Brazil (1998). PoA is located in the southernmost province of Brazil, the Rio Grande do Sol, and its population is approximately
1.3 million. In the past two decades, it has been home to a variety of socially progressive measures, including popular, or “participatory,” municipal budgeting processes and a national leadership associated with a left-wing party. PoA’s political atmosphere and location in the Global South were critical to staging an anti-Davos; it served as the perfect counterpoint to the exclusive nature of the WEF and its loca- tion in the posh village of Davos.
World Social Forum, 2001
The first WSF took place from January 25 to 30, 2001 in PoA, Brazil. It was planned by an Organizing Committee (later renamed the WSF Secretariat) comprised of ATTAC, various Brazilian NGOs, social movements, and trade unions, including members of the Unique Workers Centre (CUT) and the Landless Workers Movement (MST). Other Brazilian civil society organizations5 were a part, including the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis (IBASE), which was instrumental in procuring financial support (Teivainen, 2004). The four major themes of the event included the Production of Wealth and Social Reproduction; Access to Wealth and Sustainability; Civil
Society and the Public Arena; and Political Power and Ethics in the New Society. The event was structured to involve (1) large-scale conferences comprised of panelists chosen by the WSF Organizing Committee. These consisted of presentations by high-profile intellectuals and activists in large stadium-like venues; (2) self-organized workshops organized by “delegate” organizations, which took place in small ven- ues and were usually run like assemblies with significant interaction between presenters and audience. Proposals for self-organized work- shops were submitted by participant organizations and approved by the WSF Organizing Committee. These events were “intended to allow groups, and coalitions, and networks to meet, exchange experiences, interlink, plan and define strategies, always in view of their present and future action” (World Social Forum, 2006); and (3) testimonies from “individuals with a distinguished record of activity on behalf of freedom and human dignity.” In 2001, the WSF event included 16 conferences, 420 self-organized events, and 22 Testimonies. There were 103 panelists total, 28 of them from Brazil.
The registration structure of the 2001 WSF included delegates— registrants who represented specific organizations or groups; and observers—individual attendees and representatives from governments and political parties. Since 2001, parties and state officials were barred from participating as delegates, but those “that host the WSF may be partners in its organization” and “governors and parliamentarians that commit to the Charter of Principles can be invited to participate on a personal basis.” The logic of the ban was to prevent political parties and state officials from co-opting the process for political ends or using it as a venue for campaigning. Armed groups, and (para)military organizations were also formally excluded from the start (World Social Forum, 2006). In 2001, the WSF attracted a total of 20,000 participants from 117 countries, 4,700 of whom registered as delegates. Countries with the largest delegations included Brazil (2,566), Argentina, France, Uruguay, and Italy. In addition, the 2001 WSF brought 1,486 members of the national press and 386 members of the international press, plus the 2,000 participants who were housed in the “Youth Camp”—an expansive campsite located near the Forum for, but not limited to, young people. The Youth Camp consisted of a tent city, food stands, and informal spaces, such as lawns and park area, for discussion and cultural events. Also, 40 mayors of Latin American cities, 2 ministers from the French cabinet, and the Brazilian PT leader Luiz Inácio Lula
da Silva attended the 2001 WSF.
Amidst the surge of AGM protests, the 2001 WSF was, in turn, politically charged. It became a major point of contention between
the PT and Cardoso, then president of Brazil and a strong advocate of neoliberalism. Cardoso publicly denounced the PT for funding the event, but was chastised by the local Chamber of Commerce, which claimed that the WSF was benefiting the local economy (Ali, 2001). Tensions were further exacerbated when federal police arrested Jose Bové, French farmer and militant activist, who was renowned for his part in the 1999 protest in Millau (located in the southwest of France) against McDonald’s use of hormone treated beef in their products. Bové and his fellow protesters dismantled a McDonald’s store, and he was subsequently imprisoned for 44 days, capturing a great deal of attention worldwide (BBC, 2002). At the WSF, Bové joined with the MST and occupied a Monsanto field growing genetically modified plants. Although the local PT government banned genetically modified crops in the province, the Cardoso administration granted Monsanto permission to farm them there. Bové and the MST destroyed some 400 hectares of Monsanto land and Bové was arrested and served an expulsion order. Bové’s action and subsequent expulsion brought a great deal of national and international publicity to both the WSF and the PT.
In addition to controversies around Bové, a live debate via sat- ellite was staged between 12 WSF participants in PoA and 4 WEF representatives in Davos, including the head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the veritable poster-child for neoliberalism, billionaire currency speculator George Soros. According to Walden Bello, executive director for the Southeast Asian NGO “Focus on the Global South,” and representative of the WSF, the press termed the one and a half hours “not as a debate but as an emotional exchange that, as the Financial Times put it, ‘some- times degenerated into personal insults.’ ” Bello further explains that for the WSF constituency
globalization was a deadly business, and many undoubtedly shared the feelings of Hebe de Bonafini when she screamed at Soros across the Atlantic divide, “Mr. Soros, you are a hypocrite. How many children’s deaths have you been responsible for?” That Soros in the course of the debate made some utterances regarding the need to control the nega- tive impacts of globalization hardly endeared him to this crowd, who saw him mainly as a finance speculator who had made billions of dol- lars at the expense of third world economies. (2001)
During the debate, 50 Years Is Enough Network director Njoki Njoroge Njehu challenged the UNDP to call for an end to the
structural adjustment programs advocated by the World Bank and the IMF and attacked the “UN Global Compact,” which allowed cor- porations, like Nike and Shell, to call themselves defenders of human rights (Ambrose, 2001). Participants at the WSF echoed Njehu’s senti- ments and called for massive countersummit protests at the September 2001 meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington, DC.
Despite its overall success, organizers of WSF 2001 were criticized by various groups for not being transparent and inclusive enough in plan- ning the event. According to Naomi Klein (2001b), the organizational structure of the WSF was “so opaque that it was nearly impossible to figure out how decisions were made.” Anarchist participants expressed their discontent with the organizers by marching through the campus of the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC) (WSF headquarters), which made headlines in the independent media. The PSTU, a splinter fac- tion of the PT, interrupted speeches to push its anticapitalist agenda and protest the PT’s role in the event (Klein, 2002; Adams, 2002). The WSF 2001 organizers were also criticized for failing to solicit partici- pation from a broader array of organizations and activists, especially those from the United States and Africa, as well as Russia, Eastern Europe, and China (ibid.; Ali, 2001). These critics urged the Forum to reach out to indigenous and other people who did not have the financial resources to attend the meeting or follow its proceedings online.
Following WSF 2001, the Organizing Committee responded to its critics by pledging to internationalize the social forum process and organize forums in places other than Brazil. To achieve these goals, they established an international steering committee—the International Council (IC)—in June 2001. In its own words, the WSF IC is
a political and operational body that contributes both to defining the WSF’s strategic directions and to mobilizing support, besides its other organizational activities . . . The IC was set up in such a way as to express the conception of the World Social Forum as an open, demo- cratic meeting place favoring the growth of an international movement to bring together alternatives to neoliberal “right thinking.” (World Social Forum, 2006)
The eight members of the WSF Organizing Committee included them- selves on the WSF IC and handpicked the other 100+ organizations that comprised it. WSF constituents contended that the initial organiz- ers exercised too much control over the membership selection process and that the Committee itself was not adequately diverse, consisting
predominantly of persons from the Americas and Western Europe. In addition to the core membership of the IC, 15 observer organizations were invited to attend its meetings (Teivainen, 2004).
Aside from developing standing committees to organize and steer the WSF, in 2001, the WSF Organizing Committee drafted a Charter of Principles (see appendix 1) to outline its objectives and organiza- tional values. The guidelines contained in the WSF Charter defined it as an “open space”:
an open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences and interlinking for effective action, by groups and movements of civil society that are opposed to neoliberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to building a planetary society directed towards fruitful relationships among Humankind and between it and the Earth.
It also defined the limits of the space in terms of who participates:
The World Social Forum is a plural, diversified, non-confessional, non- governmental and non-party context that, in a decentralized fashion, interrelates organizations and movements engaged in concrete action at levels from the local to the international to build another world.
The concept of the open space was in part inspired by the Brazilian PT and ATTAC, which were both interested in the development of participatory structures as a way for social movements and NGOs to check the work of governments and political leaders, multinational corporations, and supranational financial institutions. Much like the PT’s Participatory Budget (PB) process in Brazil, the WSF was estab- lished as a nonpartisan venue for networking among various groups and movements opposed to neoliberal globalization. Through phrases like “open meeting place” and “plural and diversified,” organizers expressed their intent to create a noncoercive, nonhierarchical space in which movements and groups could socialize and reclaim an indepen- dent public sphere without submitting to a party line or defined lead- ership. It diverged from the PB process and the radically democratic organizational practices of AGM protestors, however, by stipulating that the WSF remain “nondeliberative”: While the space would remain open to the diversity of movements and organizations in its context, it would not operate as a mechanism for them to formulate common proj- ects, political platforms, or protest actions under a common rubric.
the World Social Forum, 2002
Several major historical events followed the first meeting of the WSF:
(1) the anti-FTAA protests in Quebec City attracted record numbers of protesters and police violence against AGM protesters increased significantly; (2) the United States sustained terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which fundamentally changed the social and political landscape in which the WSF and AGM oper- ated; (3) Enron and other corporate scandals began to unravel, which broke public confidence in “free market” economics and pegged neo- liberal powerholders as corrupt and unethical; and (4) the Argentine economy collapsed, which was widely attributed to the failure of the Washington Consensus.
Against this backdrop, the second WSF took place in PoA from January 31 to February 5, but its counterpoint, the WEF, moved to New York City. While the relocation was said to be an expression of solidarity with New York after the bombing of the World Trade Center, skeptics suggested that Swiss officials prompted the move because of steep security costs. In New York, protesters numbered roughly 15,000 and the police force prepared for the WEF’s presence with some 4,000 officers and millions in taxpayer dollars.
The four thematic areas adopted for the 2001 WSF were repeated in WSF 2002, but a great deal of discussion focused on the spec- tacular events of the year, including the 9/11 attacks, issues related to the burgeoning War on Terror, and what the movement termed “the defeat of neoliberalism” epitomized by Argentina and Enron. The structure of the event remained the same, except for the addi- tion of a fourth category—seminars. Seminars were organized for the purpose of identifying and developing “specific themes which [had] not yet come to be embodied in clear proposals or social subjects, as well as to permit related public debate and the socialization of strate- gic thinking from a World Social Forum perspective” (World Social Forum, 2006).
The 2002 WSF included 27 conferences, 96 seminars, and 622 workshops. The conferences featured well-known intellectuals and activists, such as Noam Chomsky, Vandana Shiva, Lori Wallach, Naomi Klein, Maude Barlow, and Samir Amin. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney addressed the opening ceremony through a live satellite video feed from the trenches of the anti-WEF protests in New York. The PT continued to generously subsidize the WSF with $1.5 million from the local city and state administration, which allowed for
excellent logistical support (Cooper, 2002). Attendance at the second WSF dramatically increased, more than twofold: over 50,000 partic- ipated, including 12,247 delegates from 123 countries. Also, 3,356 journalists attended (1,866 of who were from Brazil), and roughly 10,000 people were housed in the Youth Camp. Like WSF 2001, the largest delegations were from Brazil, Argentina, Italy, France, and Uruguay.
Although the Forum had its fair share of problems in the first year, its internal critics became more outspoken in the second. One of the main criticisms of the WSF process that carried over from the previ- ous year regarded the organization of the Forum and lack of trans- parency in deciding its content and objectives. During WSF 2002, a local organization called the Federacao Anarquista do Gaucha (FAG) organized a parallel event called Jornadas Anarquistas (Anarchist Journeys), which drew participants from a variety of countries, includ- ing Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, Sweden, Spain, France, Italy, and the United States. The PGA was also present at WSF 2002 and participated in Anarchist Journeys and the Youth Camp. During the Forum, 600 members of Anarchist Journeys and the PGA occupied a three-story house near the WSF to protest the lack of democratic pro- cess. According to Indymedia, local police were directed by the PT to clear the house, which created a great deal of antipathy toward WSF organizers connected to the local government. Participants at an open assembly of over 20 organizations in the Youth Camp aired similar complaints. While debating internal WSF problems, these organiza- tions criticized the WSF for being dominated by what they saw to be a reformist agenda and “the hegemony of social democratic ideology” despite large numbers of anarchist and other anticapitalist partici- pants. They also protested the hierarchical structure of the event by squatting the Forum’s speaker “V.I.P.” room (Juris, 2006).
In addition to criticizing the organizing process, WSF partici- pants complained of inadequate translation services. Translation was deemed especially crucial given the increasingly global nature of the event. It became a point of contention as large-scale, WSF-organized events with big names were well-equipped, while organizers of smaller panels and self-organized assemblies were left to their own devices and in many cases could not accommodate non-Portuguese and non- Spanish speakers.
The police brutality against the anticapitalist protesters and the PT’s visible presence at the Forum, despite the Charter’s explicit ban on political parties, spurred many participants to object that the
PT exercised too much control over the event. The tension between Cardoso and the PT had taken center stage during moments of WSF 2001, and Lula made another appearance in 2002, an election year. Despite the PT’s vital support, some participants felt that the ban against parties should have been imposed more seriously (ibid.).
Alongside the problem of the PT’s sketchy involvement, the Forum was criticized for not taking its internal differences seriously enough. While many people, especially the organizers, celebrated the WSF’s diversity—which they attributed to the nonpartisan, nonmilitant, nondeliberative character of the “open space”—others asserted that key political differences among Forum participants should have been discussed more openly. Following WSF 2002, for example, Michael Hardt (2002) commented:
The encounter should . . . reveal and address not only the common proj- ects and desires, but also the differences of those involved—differences of material conditions and political orientation . . . The Forum provided an opportunity to recognize such differences and questions for those willing to see them, but it did not provide the conditions for address- ing them. In fact, the very same dispersive, overflowing quality of the Forum that created the euphoria of commonality also effectively displaced the terrain on which such difference and conflicts could be confronted.
After 2002, organizers responded to criticisms regarding the way the WSF was organized in two different ways: First, they altered the event structure to include dialogue and controversy roundtables, which involved representatives of institutions that were banned from participating as official delegates, but whose contributions were deemed important by Forum organizers. They also attempted to democratize the process through which speakers were chosen by giv- ing registrants the opportunity to suggest speakers (with the excep- tion of self-organized workshops), from which the IC could select panelists. Second, the organizers called for the decentralization and diffusion of the social forum model to operate on multiple geographic scales, which resulted in the emergence of hundreds of regional and thematic forums worldwide. Local and regional social forums oper- ate within their specific locales, but maintain ties to the WSF through information sharing (via the Internet) and adherence to the WSF Charter of Principles. The first European Social Forum (ESF) held in Florence in 2002 attracted 60,000 participants and ended with a massive demonstration of 1 million people. The location of the
Forum—so soon after Genoa—sparked a great deal of controversy within Italy and local Tuscan authorities squared off against the right- wing Berlusconi government and its supporters, including renowned Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci. The Italian right attempted to instill fear among the public in and outside Florence, arguing that the event would result in large-scale riots, similar to what happened in Genoa, only worse. On the other side of the debate were various activists and social forum organizers, and a sizeable cadre of intellectuals who signed an appeal in favor of the ESF. Despite the political contro- versy, the event ensued without incident.
In addition to the European event, local and regional social forums mushroomed in various countries. Italy alone was home to some 50 local forums and Germany was a close second. While substantial variability existed among them, the social forums’ model of assembly and efforts to create open spaces for debate and the development of actions and alternatives focused on local and regional issues became increasingly popular, especially in the European context. Plus, at the 2002 ESF, various groups made an initial call for a global day of pro- tests against the Iraq War on February 15, 2003 that would become the largest in world history.
the World Social Forum, 2003
The third WSF took place in PoA from January 23 to 28, 2003. Similar to previous years, two kinds of activities took place: (1) core events planned by the WSF Organizing Committee that consisted of panels, conferences, roundtables, and testimonies; and (2) activities sponsored by participant organizations, such as seminars and workshops. The core WSF-organized activities at WSF 2003 included 10 conferences, 22 testimonies, 4 dialogue and controversy roundtables, and 36 panel debates. These activities brought together almost 400 speakers from organizations and social movements around the world. The number of self-managed activities totaled roughly 1,300, 4 times as many as in the first year. The major themes of WSF 2003 included demo- cratic sustainable development; principles and values, human rights, diversity, and equality; media, culture, and counterhegemony; politi- cal power, civil society, and democracy; the democratic world order; and the fight against militarism and promoting peace (World Social Forum, 2006). Like years prior, the 2003 event featured big-name speakers in a large stadium, including Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Susan George, and others. In addition, Lula, as the new pres- ident of Brazil, gave a speech in a nearby amphitheater and Hugo
Chávez spoke outside the event. Well-known intellectuals and AGM protagonists like Luca Casarini, a spokesperson for the Disobeddienti movement in Italy, and Michael Hardt, Fred Jameson, and Naomi Klein attended, but focused their energies away from the stadium atmosphere and toward grassroots activities.
The 2003 WSF saw a tremendous increase in the number of par- ticipants to approximately 100,000, including 20,000 delegates from a total of 123 countries. The Youth Camp drew 25,000 participants and over 4,000 journalists attended. As years before, the largest del- egations hailed from Brazil (13,046), France, Italy, Argentina, and Uruguay, and WSF 2003 also saw a massive increase in the number of participants from the United States. During the Forum, the ESF’s call for a global day of protest against the war was reinforced by WSF participants. Despite the euphoria associated with its exponen- tial growth, the WSF experienced significant administrative setbacks in 2003 when the local government reneged on funding the event. Although Lula and the PT had won seats in the national government and throughout the country, the PT lost governance of the Rio Grande do Sul in fall 2002. The consequences of the financial loss were appar- ent: the official program was not released until well into the Forum, many of the workshops and side events were not properly publicized, speakers’ travel accommodations were not subsidized, and in general, the event was not as well organized as in the past.
As the Forum grew in size and popularity, so did the number of its critics. Members of the Brazilian Indymedia describe a growing ten- sion, lesser during the first two WSFs, between participants who orga- nized independent “autonomous spaces” like Anarchist Journeys and organizers of the “core activities” of the Forum, which included rep- resentatives from ATTAC, the PT, Brazilian CUT, MST, the Roman Catholic Church, and others. The main, WSF-organized activities were consistently staged in large, well-equipped venues with transla- tion and were widely publicized, even in 2003 when resources were scarce, whereas independently organized activities, such as Indymedia and Radio Muda, were marginalized. Indymedia, a major force in the AGM, was highly critical of organizers because all of the WSF- sponsored media space was reserved for mainstream media, while inde- pendents were located in spaces outside the venue that were difficult to locate and manage (Ortellado, 2003). In addition, Life After Capitalism (LAC), a series of panels planned well in advance of the 2003 WEF by Z Magazine, suffered poor attendance due to organizers’ failure to advertise LAC events and last minute changes in room assignments.
In addition to the marginalization of autonomous spaces and events, the Youth Camp was severely neglected, despite the significant growth in the number of participants. According to Z Magazine’s Michael Albert (2004),
there were the youth who were housed in a camp with barely running water and barely acceptable sewage. That the roughly 30,000 people in the youth camp made it a vibrant community in which there were no hierarchies is immensely admirable, but that praiseworthy fact doesn’t excuse that so many people were treated as a separate entity, with so little effort to incorporate them.
My observations at the Youth Camp in the 2003 Forum corroborate Albert’s findings. The Camp was woefully unsanitary, especially after rainfall, and the showers were not covered such that participants, espe- cially women, were not afforded privacy. The tent city was located off the beaten path of the Forum and most of the autonomous spaces, such as Intergalaktica, were located there. Laboratorio Intergalaktica was born out of the Intercontinental Meeting against Neoliberalism and for Humanity in 1996, called by the Zapatistas and attended by people from over 43 countries (Osterweil, 2004). Intergalaktica was dramatically different from the rest of the Forum: it consisted of a large tent with hundreds of fold-up chairs inside, and there were no microphones or translation services, although bilingual participants generously helped translate when possible. Even when attendance numbered in the high hundreds, meetings were organized assembly- style, in which the distinction between speaker and audience was not readily apparent. The physical contrast between Intergalaktica and the events held in the stadium and other central venues pointed to the fundamental split between bureaucratic and grassroots par- ticipants in the Forum. Moreover, during the 2003 Forum, a collec- tion of NGOs, trade unions, and movements from inside the WSF International Committee—ATTAC, CUT, the MST, Focus on the Global South, and the World March of Women (Quebec)—called for the creation of a “Social Movement World Network” without con- sulting many of the movements in the autonomous spaces. Ezekiel Adamovsky (2003) of the Argentine Asambleas movement criticized these groups for not including grassroots social movements in orga- nizing the network: “Grassroots activists of real social movements were simply not there at the meetings. And no substantial effort was made to make sure the initial proposal was available in advance, so
that the movements could at least discuss it at home and send their opinions.” Peter Waterman (2004) shed some light on the process by which the Network was initiated:
Two previous Forums have issued a “call of social movements” at the prompting of various members of the OC [Organizing Committee] and IC, some being recognisable social movements, others being recognis- able NGOs. Both calls have been publicly presented and then signed by 50–100 other organisations and networks.
In addition to the increasing division between social movements and the more institutionalized members of the Forum, the Workers Party’s involvement continued to be a point of contention as PT mem- bers were out in force aggrandizing their electoral accomplishments and campaigning for the upcoming elections. Moreover, Lula’s public speech at an amphitheater on the grounds of the Forum to 75,000 onlookers ignited fears that the WSF was being taken over by “polit- ical strongmen.” In one of the more scathing indictments of Lula’s involvement, Naomi Klein (2003) wrote in the Guardian: “how on earth did a gathering that was supposed to be a showcase for new grassroots movements become a celebration of men with a penchant for three-hour speeches about smashing the oligarchy?” She contin- ued with a well-crafted summary of grassroots social movements’ response to Lula’s appearance:
For some, the hijacking of the World Social Forum by political par- ties and powerful men is proof that the movements against corpo- rate globalization are finally maturing and “getting serious.” But is it really so mature, amidst the graveyard of failed left political projects, to believe that change will come by casting your ballot for the latest charismatic leader, then crossing your fingers and hoping for the best? Get serious.
During Lula’s performance he disclosed his plan to participate in the WEF and take “the message of Porto Alegre to Davos.” He assured the crowd: “I will be saying the same thing as I say here. There will not be two faces. I will tell Davos that their economic policies are making a terrible mistake” (Wainright, 2003).
Following the speech, an anarchist group called “Confectioners without Borders” threw a pie at the face of PT President Jose Genoino at a press conference on Lula’s visit to Davos. The woman who threw the pie stated, “Lula does not represent us! The people in the streets
represent us!” After the incident, the group issued a communiqué, which explained: “The hope of change which we bring cannot be co- opted again and frustrated by politicians and parties who wish to pro- mote themselves at our expense.” The statement ended with “Que se vayan todos!” (that they all go)—the rally cry of the 2001 Argentine uprising of piqueteros and other social movements, who called for all politicians to leave the country. The split between the “institutional” WSF and autonomous movements was further exacerbated when an indigenous Mapuche woman, a delegate of the WSF, was arrested while bathing nude in a river near the Forum grounds. After the woman was arrested under charges of “obscene acts,” a nonviolent, nude protest by 400 activists in the Youth Camp ensued, which was attacked by local police, injuring protesters as well as journalists and bystanders.
Following the 2003 WSF, several local social forums were staged, including the ESF in Paris, which attracted 50,000 participants, and the Asian Social Forum in Hyderabad, which brought 8,000. At the close of the 2003 WSF, the IC announced that the event would be held in India the following year. Its timing could not have been bet- ter. Criticisms of the PT’s involvement in the WSF were mounting as were complaints regarding limited access to the Forum by Asian and African activists. The WSF attracted a modest number of Asian and African delegates, which made it appear as a predominantly Brazilian or Latin American event and the large number of WSF Organizing Committee and IC members from Brazil only added to this impression (Kagarlitsky, 2004; Santos, 2004b). Moreover, despite allowing Lula and Chávez to participate, organizers wanted to prevent the Forum from becoming consumed in Latin American, especially Brazilian, politics. The WSF was conceived as a global institution, but it des- perately needed to expand, both geographically and thematically. As Boris Kagarlitsky (2004), Director of the Institute of the Problems of Globalization (in Moscow), put it, “The Forum faced a dilemma: either become a platform to criticize the new Brazilian government, or fall under its influence.”
the World Social Forum, 2004 (Mumbai, India)
The city of Mumbai was strategically chosen as the site of the 2004 WSF in part because it is a city of acute contradictions. On the one hand, Mumbai houses India’s Bollywood enterprise and IT industry and is home to the country’s wealthiest people; on the other, more than half of its 16 million people live in slums and roughly 2 million of them are on the streets. Seventy-three percent of families lives in
one-room tenements and two percent of the total population works as street vendors (Santos, 2004b). It is the world’s largest financial cen- ter outside Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, but it is also a place in which some of the most aggressive and violent acts of religious sectarianism have taken place (WSF India, 2004). Development analyst Devinder Sharma estimates that “by 2010 Mumbai will be 80 percent slum” (Conant, 2004). Despite the gaping chasm between the rich and the poor, Mumbai is a diverse, cosmopolitan city that boasts of vibrant trade union, dalit (untouchable), and women’s movements (WSF India, 2004).
The fourth WSF was held in Mumbai from January 16 to 21, 2004. A local India WSF Organizing Committee planned the event with guid- ance from the IC. The planning committee that organized the India WSF veered from the PoA model in that issues of representation from social movements and civil society groups were more openly debated. For example, the India Organizing Committee not only attempted to reach out to social movements and NGOs already active in the WSF, but also opened the dialogue to political parties, state actors, and groups typically marginalized in Indian politics, such as women, indigenous people, dalits, and immigrants (WSF India, 2004).
An India General Council (IGC) consisting of 135 members was established as the decision-making body for the WSF in India; its membership was open to all social movements and organizations com- mitted to the WSF Charter. In addition, an India Working Committee was established that consisted of 67 organizations nominated from the IGC. The Working Committee was made up of 14 national worker organizations, 8 national women’s organizations, 6 national farmers’ networks, and 4 national platforms (each) of dalit, student and youth groups, and 27 social movements and NGOs. The India Organizing Committee served as the executive body of the WSF 2004, responsible for organizing the event. It consisted of 45 individuals, each of whom served on at least one of eight functional groups: (1) Program; (2) Venue and Logistics; (3) Communication and Media; (4) Liaison; (5) Finance;
(6) Culture; (7) Mobilization; and (8) Youth and Students.
The WSF in India also expanded the way in which thematic cat- egories were used to bring coherence to the event. While the WSF had previously adopted an opposition to neoliberalism as the main theme through which other themes would intersect, the WSF India organizers added other dimensions, which they termed “traversals.” The idea was that each of the main themes of the Forum would tra- verse or intersect with more general categories. For the 2004 WSF,
for example, the main themes included Democracy, Ecological, and Economic Security; Discrimination, Dignity, and Rights; Media, Information, and Knowledge; and Militarism, War, and Peace. “Transversal” themes included Imperialist globalization; Patriarchy; Casteism, Racism and Social Exclusions; and Religious sectarian- ism, Identity Politics, Fundamentalism (WSF India, 2004; Gupta and Purkayastha, 2003). In the 2004 Forum, the Iraq War and related issues of terrorism, fundamentalism, and security took center stage. Some even complained that the anti-Bush sentiment was too domi- nant (Chaudhry, 2004).
The 2004 WSF in India attracted roughly 80,000–100,000 par- ticipants from over 120 countries, including 20,000–30,000 dalits. Roughly 2,700 were housed in the Youth Camp and 3,200 journalists from over 45 countries attended. Notable speakers included Arundhati Roy, former Indian president K.R. Narayanan, Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, and Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Joseph Stiglitz. Even former president Clinton acknowledged the Forum in an address he made at the WEF in Davos (Capdevila, 2004).
Registration was structured in the same way as WSF 2003, except there was a general effort to democratize the process by reducing the number of WSF-organized events and increasing the number of those that were self-organized. Plus, self-organized events were expanded to include conferences, panels, and testimonies in addition to work- shops. The WSF India organizers planned a total of 13 events, in the form of panels, conferences, roundtables, and public meetings. The event also included 35 large-scale, self-organized activities (panels, conferences, and roundtables) as well as 1,200 smaller events (semi- nars, workshops, and meetings). In addition, 1,500 fine artists, writ- ers, and filmmakers presented their work, including over 150 street theater plays and 85 film titles. Countless participants reflected in written evaluations how women played a more visible role in India than they had in previous years. In addition, the WSF no longer appeared as a strictly Latin American event; the WSF India was over- whelmingly Asian and a significant number of Africans attended as well (Albert, 2004).
A key development in the India WSF process was the decision to include political parties, in part because India is host to the quasi- Maoist Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) and the CPI, as well as various Marxist-Leninist organizations with mass followings. Despite the India WSF’s rejection of the Charter of Principles’ ban on political parties in 2004, armed resistance groups were still excluded.
The ban on militant groups had been criticized at earlier WSFs, espe- cially when WSF organizers invited ministers from France, Belgium, and Portugal, but denied participation to FARC and Basque national- ists. Several critics questioned whether the Zapatistas—the (masked) face of the AGM—would also be excluded under these guidelines (Wallerstein, 2004a). In 2004, however, the issue became increasingly important: some Marxist-Leninist groups were still involved in gue- rilla activity in regions of India’s countryside and a small, but vocal band of Maoist organizations, called Mumbai Resistance (MR), lob- bied the WSF to become more open to different tactics of resistance, contending that the WSF was really just a “talk shop.” In addition, MR wanted the Forum and its constituents to express solidarity with the Iraqi resistance (Whitehouse and Lal, 2004). One of the WSF’s notables, Arundhati Roy, attended both the WSF India and MR, where she pub- licly announced her support for the Iraqi resistance: “The Iraqi resistance is fighting on the front lines of the battle against Empire. And there- fore that battle is our battle” (Roy, 2004). Needless to say, not all WSF participants, especially mainstream NGOs, supported her position.
MR took place alongside the WSF from January 17 to 20, 2004 and attracted roughly 2,000 participants. It was a product of the International Coordinating Group of the ILPS, a coalition of over 100 organizations. In its own words, MR was “a continuation of the militant traditions set in the anti-globalization and anti-war move- ments that assumed a new intensity after Seattle” (The Spark, 2003). In light of its militant orientation, MR criticized the WSF process on the following grounds:
MR-2004 is of the strong opinion that justice, equality and liberation can be achieved only through peoples’ struggles. In this process we do not exclude any form of struggle that the situation may demand. The achievement of justice, equality and liberation is the primary objective, and the people choose the method of struggle according to the specific situation. Any restriction based on the forms of struggle can only serve to divide the forces standing up against imperialism. (Ibid.)
In addition to MR’s push for the WSF to become more inclusive, participants from a variety of backgrounds began to express a desire to see the WSF take political positions or express shared political val- ues, against the war in Iraq, for instance, or the FTAA. While the WSF IC debated whether the Forum should move in this direction, they ultimately decided to adhere to the Charter and remain nondelib- erative (Patomäki and Teivainen, 2005). A second criticism, inherited
AGM and WSF 63
from previous years, regarded the organization of the Forum. Despite the India Committees’ attempts to make the process more trans- parent, critics point to the failure of the WSF to open its steering and organizing committees to the grassroots. According to Michael Albert (2004), former member of the WSF IC, “We want transpar- ency, democracy, participation, even participatory democracy in the world around us. But these qualities don’t exist regarding the WSF’s own operations and that creates an abiding tension . . .” Albert further asserted that “having an international decision making council com- posed of people who are largely unaccountable and even unknown to anyone outside the convened room . . . is not a recipe for lasting and even accelerating success.”
Despite these and other criticisms, the India WSF was generally viewed as a remarkable success. The experiment of relocating the Forum seemed to pay off and many participants marveled at how the WSF in India felt more community- and grassroots-driven and less like a middle-class event, especially in contrast to the ESF. As in previous years, a general call went out for a global antiwar march on March 20, the anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Several months after the India WSF, the ESF was held in London from October 14 to 17, 2004. To the dismay of many participants, the event was largely organized by the Greater London Authority (GLA), the municipal government, and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). The 2004 ESF attracted some 35,000 people from all over Europe, a little less than half of the number in previous years. Although autonomous spaces, such as “the Hub,” had been organized in prior years, 2004 saw a proliferation of them because of the SWP’s and GLA’s involvement.
At the ESF in London, divisions between institutional and grass- roots participants morphed into a full-blown schism between what became known as “verticals” and “horizontals.”6 Roughly 6,000 ESF participants had to stand in line for several hours in the rain just to register because only 900 were allowed in at one time. Amidst the chaos, the police were eventually called to clear the premises and fights and subsequent arrests resulted. Participants speculated that the organizers (“verticals”) were responsible for the police presence. Soon after, at a session that was slated to feature Ken Livingston (he cancelled), anarchists and other “horizontals” stormed the podium in protest. For many of those who rejected the GLA and SWP’s meth- ods, but attempted to participate in good faith by creating autono- mous programs, the London event would be the last social forum they would attend.
World Social Forum, 2005
The fifth WSF was held in PoA between January 26 and 31, 2005; 155,000 people from over 135 countries attended, almost 8 times as many as in its first year. As with previous forums in PoA, the largest delegations were from Brazil (80 percent) and other Latin American countries. For 2005, the Brazilian WSF Organizing Committee was expanded from the initial 8 members to 23 and subdivided into the following working groups: Spaces; Solidarity and Popular Economy; Environment and Sustainability; Culture; Translation; Communication; Mobilization; and Free Software.
The organizing process and structure of the 2005 WSF was rad- ically altered from previous years: Forum organizers began the pro- cess by soliciting ideas for major thematic “terrains” and like their counterparts in India, made use of “traversals” to frame issues; 1,800 organizations took part in deciding the thematic terrains for the Forum,7 which were used to organize the workshops and panels and situate them on the grounds of the event. Unlike previous WSFs, all the events were self-organized in 2005. There were over 2,500 events, in which 6,880 participants spoke on panels and at workshops. In addition, the Youth Camp housed 35,000 people and for the first time in WSF history was located within the formal space of the Forum (Morduchowicz, 2005).
While translation was again raised as a significant problem, crit- ics also focused on the general unwieldiness of the new geographic- thematic arrangement and lack of opening and closing ceremonies to tie things together. As in previous years, participants testified to the ease at which one could get lost in the endless sea of workshops and events, which were, in many cases, inaccessible to non-Portuguese and non-Spanish speakers. Moreover, the 11 sections or “terrains” were issue-specific, such that one could spend the entire time in one area without coming into contact with other participants interested in different subjects (Callinicos and Nineham, 2005; Engler, 2005).
In addition to experiments with structure, the organizers of WSF 2005 used the Internet prior to the event to aggregate groups work- ing on similar topics in order to facilitate networking among them. They also responded to their critics by creating a Solidarity Fund to help offset travel costs for participants from poor countries. They financed the Fund with monies spent in previous years on paying big- name speakers. Still, the event had its headliners, including Brazilian pop star and Minister of Culture Gilbert Gil, Nobel Prize winning
writer Jose Saramago, writer Frei Betto, and theologian Leonardo Boff. Other celebs, such as Arundhati Roy, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and Kofi Annan were listed on the program, but did not show up (Engler, 2005).
The most controversial celebrity speaker at the 2005 Forum was the country’s president, Lula. When he was first elected, Lula spoke in a large amphitheater at the beginning of the WSF and was greeted with favor. This time, he faced a somewhat cooler reception. During his speech, he lauded the Forum and proposed that it become a permanent institution in Brazil, but when he announced that he was going to the WEF and wanted to serve as “a bridge” between the two forums, the word “traitor” spread through the crowd and people booed. Outside, a fight broke out among former and present members of the PT who were protesting, and 20 people were arrested (Burbach, 2005).
Hugo Chávez also spoke at the 2005 WSF, which he deemed “the world’s most important political event” (Dujisin, 2005). During his speech, Chávez denounced the “hegemony” of the United States and bellowed, “Only with socialism can we transcend capitalism!” He suggested that the WSF enter into a new phase and over the next five years develop “a strategy of power.” The crowd responded warmly to Chávez, and at points cried “Chávez Sí, Lula No!”
In addition to debates over the involvement of state officials, a new, yet related controversy surfaced over the “Porto Alegre Consensus,” a manifesto drafted at the close of WSF 2005 by a group of 19 high- profile activists and intellectuals. The Porto Alegre Consensus was a 12-point call to action that listed what its authors believed to be the main themes of the WSF.8 Despite the WSF Charter, which states that no one is authorized to speak on behalf of the Forum as a whole, the Consensus was drafted by some members of the WSF International Committee and other notable participants.9 Chico Whitaker, cofounder of the WSF and adamant defender of its “open space” structure, pleaded with the signatories to add their 12-point plan to the WSF Mural of Proposals instead of making a separate appeal. The Mural was a new feature of the 2005 WSF that was cre- ated as a mechanism for collecting proposals and calls to action from all participants, which would later be catalogued online. The data- base of proposals could then be used as a tool for activists to coordi- nate future projects and actions in a DIY fashion.
Whitaker refused to sign the Consensus, but other WSF IC mem- bers stood by it. Le Monde’s Ignacio Ramonet, also a member of the WSF IC, was perhaps the most fervent of its supporters: “Now,
nobody can say we have no program. Now we have the Porto Alegre Consensus and we are sure—we’re confident—that the great majority of the people of the Forum will agree with this proposal” (Anthony and Silva, 2005). While the title “Consensus” was simply a play on words—a rebuttal to the “Washington Consensus”—many people in the WSF expressed disdain for the group’s audacity in suggesting that the document constituted a consensus among WSF participants. Unfortunately for Ramonet and other signatories, WSF participants may have agreed with the proposals, but many of them did not support the way in which they were drafted, especially because it appeared as a move by “star” leftists who, according to one Brazilian official, could not “swallow being part of the masses they once led” (ibid.). Although the authors of the Porto Alegre Consensus intended to stimulate dis- cussion on the future of the Forum, and in some ways resuscitate it, the majority of WSF attendants largely ignored their manifesto. Joao Stedile of the MST stated at the close of the conference that the authors of the Consensus “were not asked by anybody for a document nor did they invite others in the various social movements present in PoA to participate in its elaboration” (Morduchowicz, 2005). Peter Waterman (2006) echoed this sentiment:
[It] provoked the anger or ridicule of many at the WSF . . . many of whom considered it, variously, as some kind of attempted coup, as elitist (dominated by white, male intellectuals, emanating from a chic hotel), as circumventing the well-established Call of Social Movements and (in my case . . .) of being both meager in extent and lacking in bite.
Amidst debates over the appearance of Lula and Chávez and the PoA Consensus, two major trends became apparent: First, despite the general disdain for the way the PoA Consensus was put together, there was indeed a desire among WSF participants to engage in a more public expression of its opposition to neoliberalism and perhaps develop a political program. While some argued that a consensus among such a diverse population was not possible, others suggested that there might be some issues upon which all of WSF participants could agree. The latter group argued that the Forum was becom- ing mired in technical questions of organization by protecting the nondeliberative character of the open space and was thereby losing sight of its goal to oppose neoliberalism. Ignacio Ramonet, for exam- ple, wrote in the January 2006 issue of Le Monde that the initial
objective of the WSF was to “thwart the process of liberal globaliza- tion,” but points out that
[it] was clear at Porto Alegre in 2005 that the original idea had lost
momentum. Many felt that the forum had to be more than a venue for discussions that did not lead to action: a minimum platform was needed so that words could be transformed into actions. The platform would provide meaning and design for alternatives to neoliberal pro- posals, incorporating the common objectives of citizens from North and South. If it failed, the forum risked losing political credibility and becoming a showpiece for civil society in which, despite the best inten- tions, good governance would become the main focus of attention.
Ramonet and his cohort argued that if the WSF exercised its collective and intellectual power, it might have a real impact on world events (Márquez, 2006b). Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago, a signatory of the PoA Consensus, took a similar position during a debate with Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano in a large, overcrowded audito- rium at the 2005 WSF. While Galeano defended the WSF’s utopian- ism, Saramago remarked:
I consider the concept of utopia worse than useless.. What has trans-
formed the world is not utopia, but need... The only time and place
where our work can have impact—where we can see it and evaluate it—is tomorrow Let’s not wait for utopia. (Engler, 2005)
Saramago’s response was met with a standing ovation (ibid.).
The second trend that became apparent at the close of the 2005 WSF was a genuine ambivalence regarding the role of political parties and government officials in the Forum. On the one hand, Chávez’s fla- grant opposition to the Bush administration and international financial institutions like the IMF and WTO has been viewed with favor among many on the international left and the PT’s participatory programs have been lauded as a living model of direct democracy, despite Lula’s capitulations. While his quasi-nationalist and thirdworldist10 claims have troubled WSF participants, Chávez’s accomplishments in redis- tributing Venezuela’s wealth and creating worker cooperatives have enjoyed broad appeal. On the other hand, WSF constituents remain suspicious of “political strongmen” and the repeated failures of center and center-left parties to meet the needs of everyday people have caused many on the left to lose faith in electoral politics altogether. A series of IBASE-sponsored studies11 on the population of the 2003–2005 WSFs
confirm these observations: while 24.3 percent of the 2005 participants claimed to be affiliated with political parties in some way, 58 percent of those at the 2004 WSF expressed a lack of confidence in them.
At the close of the 2005 Forum, participants lamented the possibil- ity that the WSF might never return to PoA, its birthplace. In 2006, the WSF would go “polycentric” and operate out of three “centers,” then recentralize in Nairobi in 2007, when Africa would celebrate the 200th anniversary of the elimination of the slave trade and the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s independence.
the World Social Forum, 2006 “polycentric”
Following its mandate to spread the social forum process around the globe, the WSF International Committee decided to make the 2006 WSF “polycentric”—meaning, that it would occur simultaneously in three venues: Caracas, Venezuela (the WSF of the Americas), Bamako, Mali, and Karachi, Pakistan. The decision to hold polycentric events came out of a debate within the Council regarding the periodicity of the WSF and whether it should continue to operate on an annual basis. Rather than compromise its momentum, the Council decided to decentralize the WSF in 2006, first, to enable the WSF to operate on a truly global scale, and second, to increase the diversity of its participant-base and thematic approach (Ferrari, 2005). Despite sug- gestions to connect the events in some way, organizers decided not to follow a standardized organizational model; rather, each forum “cen- ter” would be self-managed by local organizing committees, while adhering to the Charter of Principles. Whitaker (2005) defended this position, claiming that
the work of each forum ensues from the activities proposed and self- managed by its participants. The registration process enables them to find out about the proposals from others with common themes . . . And each of these themes can be deepened based on the real interests of the participants, and not by decisions by a higher authority, this latter being non-existent and unacceptable in the Forum process.
The Americas Social Forum: Caracas, Venezuela (South America)
The 2006 polycentric WSF in Caracas took place from January 24 to 29, 2006. Venezuela was a likely choice for hosting one of the poly- centric events due to the country’s left-wing leadership and its demo- cratic socialist platform. Since retaking office in 2002, after a coup to
unseat him (which was followed by an unsuccessful recall referendum in 2004), Chávez implemented a serious of programs to redistribute the wealth of the country and bolster social welfare. Key aspects of his social programs included (1) Venezuelan economic and political sovereignty; (2) participatory democracy through popular votes and referenda; (3) economic self-sufficiency (food, consumer items, and energy); and (4) equitable distribution of the country’s resources, especially its oil industry.
Venezuela is the world’s ninth largest oil producer and the fifth largest net exporter; it has been a long-time member of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) (Johnson, 2009). Needless to say, the petroleum sector dominates the country’s economy and has provided the Chávez administration with the necessary wealth to implement a variety of social welfare programs both in and outside Venezuela. Chávez is also well known for his quips against the Bush administration—he called Bush “Mr. Danger” and “the Devil”—and bold efforts to undermine the WTO and IMF. This open antagonism may have served as an impetus for the Associated Press to describe the 2006 WSF as an “anti-U.S. social forum” (Associated Press, 2006).
In addition to growing excitement about Chávez, just months before the WSF, a major development in South American politics took place: Evo Morales was elected president of Bolivia. Among other things, Morales is celebrated as the first indigenous person to be elected head of state in hundreds of years. He was a leader of the Bolivian cocalero movement, a federation of coca leaf growers who resisted attempts by the U.S. government to eradicate coca in the province of Chapare, and the Movimiento al Socialismo, the political party involved in nation- alizing Bolivia’s natural gas economy. Morales and Chávez have been closely aligned in efforts to build a pan-Latin American trade alli- ance and to nationalize the gas and other industries in their respective countries (Bolivia has the second largest resource of natural gas in the region, second only to Venezuela).
Within this context, the WSF in Caracas attracted 60,000– 80,000 participants representing 2,000 organizations. Like other WSFs, Brazil provided the largest number of delegates, followed by Venezuela, Columbia, and the United States (2,500). The number of participants may have been affected by the closing of the bridge on the Caracas La Guaira highway, the principal link between the city and the international airport, just days before the launch of the Forum. This resulted in several flight delays and cancellations and the average 30-minute trip between the airport and downtown turned
into a four- to five-hour trek through the barrios and steep mountain passes that surround the city. The Chávez government softened the blow by providing free shuttle service between the airport and the city and free subway tickets to all Forum delegates. He also waived visa requirements and airport taxes.
The Forum in Caracas was comprised of approximately 2,000 con- ferences, workshops, and panels, some of which were staged in giant auditoriums and others (self-organized) in smaller venues. Notable speakers included Cindy Sheehan, Eduardo Galeano, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel. Like in 2005, a consultation was opened prior to the Forum to solicit themes for organizing panels and workshops (see appendix 2). In the end, 25 percent of the panels were organized by people from Venezuela, which may have contributed to monolingual nature of the event. Critics assert that while the event was billed as a WSF of the Americas, most of the panels and work- shops were almost entirely conducted in Spanish. Even the WSF’s offi- cial newspaper Terr-Aviva, which was normally published in several languages, was available only in Spanish in 2006.
The Youth Camp, on the other hand, had its own daily newspaper (Querrequerre, named after a bird that dies if it is held captive), which was presented in both English and Spanish (Becker, 2006). There appeared to be two Youth Camps in Caracas and I visited one of them. One was located a significant distance from the center of the Forum (one hour by bus), while the other was relatively close to it (a 10-minute walk). The more central Camp was situated adjacent to an enormous market area, where hundreds, if not thousands, of vendors sold a panoply of items, from Chávez action figures to leather crafts to homemade honey (literally, with live bees buzzing around). Inside the camp were covered showers, dozens of picnic tables, and some tented spaces for cultural events and small workshops. The other Youth Camp did not seem to be quite as well-equipped: two to three representatives from the Camp disrupted a plenary session on the future of the WSF to protest unsanitary conditions (there was no running water) and its distance from the Forum’s center. Nonetheless, various reports and the official Web site reported that the less cen- tral Youth Camp included a pressroom with computers and a radio station—all significant improvements from previous years.
Despite the Forum’s overall success, critics said that the lack of formal wrap-up at the end of the event made it feel disjointed and incoherent. In addition, events were held in nine different loca- tions throughout the city. Participants had a difficult time traveling
between them and oftentimes got lost. Errors in the printed program only exacerbated the problem. Moreover, some venues were entirely empty. For example, I visited one of the largest venues at the WSF in Caracas, a massive military airport outside the city center, on the third day of the Forum. The venue was heavily guarded by military police and the site itself consisted of 15–20 large tents, spread across half an acre of land. Each tent was equipped with translation facilities and hundreds of chairs. The space was lined with food stands, had a tent-covered Internet café with hundreds of computers, and in general, was remarkably well-furnished. But the site was difficult to locate, and despite the fact that dozens of workshops were scheduled for that two-hour timeslot, the place was almost entirely deserted. A notable exception: a well-attended panel conducted entirely in Spanish in one of the large tents included four speakers, one of whom was a military officer and another, a public official accompanied by a bodyguard.
Another criticism that surfaced at the Forum regarded the partici- pation of grassroots social movements and community activists from within Venezuela. Critics reported that some social movement leaders and organizations within Venezuela from the barrios and urban shan- tytowns boycotted the Forum because organizers did not include them. They also asserted that even the Zapatistas were not given an offi- cial space and had to organize their event on its margins (Fernandes, 2006). Moreover, Chávez’s omnipresence caused controversy among participants and some argued that he was using his power and money to guide the WSF process toward taking a more political stance in favor of his government. This contention was evinced by Chávez’s speech during the Forum: “A forum in which debates are held with- out conclusions is just odd. I insist on this. Respecting the autonomy of the social movements, I believe we need to set up an alternative movement Socialism or Death!”
In Caracas, the implicit lifting of the WSF Charter of Principles’ ban on political parties and state officials went hand in hand with the inclusion of militant or armed groups. In addition to the pres- ence of Venezuelan military personnel at panels and meeting sites, a large state-sponsored market showcased the government’s latest tanks. In addition, several WSF-sponsored speakers, mostly on panels dedicated to imperialism, called for the development of a pan-Latin American army to thwart an invasion from the North. These and other factors gave the 2006 WSF a militarized feel, radically different from previous Forums. The Chávez administration’s imprint on the 2006 Forum was not only visible through the iconographic t-shirts
and propaganda slogans that colored the event, but also through the presence of young recruits in fatigues, with weapons in hand.
Bamako, Mali (Africa)
The 2006 Polycentric WSF in Bamako, Mali, took place from January 24 to 29, 2006 concurrent to the Caracas WSF. Located on the Niger River, Bamako is Mali’s main administrative and regional trade center, with a population of roughly 15 million. Mali is among the poorest countries in the world: 65 percent of its land is desert and most of the country’s work force consists of farmers and fisher- men; about 10 percent of its population is nomadic. Since Mali estab- lished its independence from France in 1960, the country has suffered droughts, rebellions, a coup, and 23 years of military dictatorship. In 1992, the country’s first democratically elected president Amadou Toumani Toure took power. His government provided 150 million CFA (almost US$29,000) in support for the WSF in Bamako and use of public meeting facilities (BBC News, 2009; WSF Bamako, 2006).
The Polycentric WSF in Bamako attracted some 15,000–17,000 participants, half of what organizers expected, but still, a radical improvement from previous WSFs in which only 100 or so African representatives could participate, mostly from NGOs. Over 300 of the attendees hailed from the rural areas of Mali, and another 8,000 from neighboring countries. The event was covered widely in the national news media and Madame Aminata Traore, the former min- ister of culture, was part of the planning process (Murphy, 2006). The event involved 300–700 activities daily, more than organizers had originally expected, and new kinds of activities were staged that differed markedly from prior WSFs. For example, the Bamako WSF’s Youth Camp, renamed the Youth Forum, was organized to provide “young men and women the rare opportunity to interact with vil- lage elders and other ‘older citizens’ on issues that affect their lives, including unemployment, migration and education” (Geloo, 2006). It served as a space for discussion around children’s issues, including education in rural settings. Another invention in Bamako was the 15 km “Solidarity Run,” a protest against the exploitation of African athletes by Westerners (ibid.).
Criticisms of the WSF in Bamako tended to focus on logistical difficulties typically associated with staging a large-scale event in a resource-poor country with weak infrastructure. Accommodation and sanitation were meager—in some cases, running water was scarce— and similar to other WSFs, the general organization of the event was
relatively weak. Like the WSF in Caracas, for example, participants complained that some organizers and speakers did not show up to workshops and while French, Bambara, and some English speak- ers had few complaints regarding translation, Portuguese speakers reported having significant difficulty. The most controversial event, however, took place outside the Forum territory at a conference held on January 18, 2006. From the conference, the “Bamako Appeal” (a.k.a. the “Appeal of 19”) was announced to the public, a 9,000- word manifesto and program for “global social transformation” (Waterman, 2006). The Appeal was drafted by a small group of intel- lectuals and NGO representatives, lead by Samir Amin and Francois Houtart, and was disseminated for endorsement on the World Forum of Alternatives Web site. Similar to the Porto Alegre Consensus, of which Houtart and Amin were also signatories, the Appeal marked a second attempt by high-profile activists to push the Forum toward the formation of political positions and actions. While its authors claim that the Appeal was an independent effort, the drafting session was convened in relation to the WSF in Bamako. The general response of WSF participants to the Bamako Appeal was similar to that of the PoA Consensus as people were resistant to accepting a document forged in such an elite manner and were disappointed that the group’s celebrity detracted from the potential international press coverage of the Mali WSF.
Karachi, Pakistan (Asia) With a population of approximately 15 million, Karachi is the cap- ital of Sindh Province, situated in the south, along the coast of the Arabian Sea. It is the Pakistan’s largest city and main financial, com- mercial, and manufacturing center. Unlike previous WSFs that were held in sympathetic political climates, Pakistan is controlled by a mil- itary regime, with a significant population of religious fundamental- ists, called “sectarian movements,” in conflict with agents of the U.S. War on Terror. Trade unions and social movements are weak and the country is divided along ethnic and religious lines.
The Polycentric WSF in Karachi, Pakistan, took place from March 24 to 29, 2006, two months after the events in Caracas and Mali. Though initially scheduled to operate concurrently to the other polycentric WSFs, the Karachi WSF was delayed due to the October 2005 earthquake in the northern part of the country. The earthquake killed 80,000 people and left some 3.5 million homeless. In spite of this disaster, the Karachi WSF took place amidst tightened security in
light of terrorist attacks and suicide bombings in the city. Nonetheless, it attracted over 30,00–40,000 people from 46 countries, twice as many as predicted, featuring such notables as Tariq Ali, Yasin Malik of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), several Pakistani politicians, British Parliament member Jeremy Corbyn, and Indian Parliament member Kumari Nirmala Deshpande, who chaired the opening ceremony. While the opening ceremony involved big-name activists and government officials, the closing ceremony was run by young people and other lesser-known participants, who were seen as the heart of the WSF process (Jammu and Kashmir, 2006). Participants included a diverse array of people, including small fisherman and peasants; trade unionists; nationalists from Sindh, Baluchistan, and Kashmir; and several women’s organizations. In addition, an Indian delegation attended, despite difficulties getting into the country; while the Forum focused on a variety of themes (see appendix 2), India- Pakistan relations and Kashmir were central (Pierre, 2006).
Critics of the Karachi WSF asserted that while the Forum attracted a variety of participants from over 58 countries, including a large French delegation, it lacked an international audience beyond South Asia. In addition, some Pakistani social movements were conspic- uously absent, such as the feminist organizations of Lahore (ibid.). Also, critics suggested that poor people were invisible in the panels, which was linked to the broader problem of NGO involvement in the WSF. While the increased presence of NGOs had become an issue at the Indian WSF in 2004, high-profile activist-writers, such as Tariq Ali and Arundhati Roy, waged major criticisms before, during, and after the Karachi WSF, alleging that the involvement of NGOs was having a depoliticizing effect. In a bold move away from her role as protagonist of the WSF, for example, Arundhati Roy dismissed it in an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! as being inef- fective in the fight against neoliberalism, citing the “NGO-ization” of the Forum and its lack of political force (Lee, 2006):
Goodman: Finally, Arundhati Roy, you are headed to Pakistan, not to follow President Bush, but for the World Social Forum that will be taking place later this month. Can you talk about what you’ll be saying there and the significance of this forum on the heels of this visit?
Arundhati Roy: Well, actually, I’m not headed there . . . I’m really thinking about all these things too much to be able to go and speak at the World Social Forum now, because I’m very worried about, you know, all of us who are involved in these things, spend too much of our energy sort of feeling good about the World Social Forum, which has
AGM and WSF 75
now become very NGO-ized and . . . it’s just become too comfortable a stage. And I think it’s played a very important role up to now, but now I think we’ve got to move on from there . . . I really don’t want to, you know, carry on doing something when the time is over for it, you know? I think we have to come up with new strategies.
World Social Forum 2007, Nairobi
The seventh WSF was held in Kenya from January 21 to 24, 2007. The impetus for its relocation to Africa was spurred by a variety of factors: sub–Saharan Africa contains 12 of the 18 poorest countries in the world and a large number of its people suffer from hunger (206 million) and shortages in food and health services. An estimate of 24.5 million people were living with AIDS in 2005, with approxi- mately 2.7 million new cases that year. In short, African countries in aggregate are the hardest hit by problems associated with poverty and debt, and as such, can be counted among the most vulnerable to the effects of neoliberalism (Mittal, 2007).
The WSF 2007 was held at the Moi International Sports Complex: Large tents were interspersed on the grounds of the gigantic foot- ball stadium and a variety of booths lined the outer ring of the the- ater in an open-air market, similar to the one in Caracas, yet with African flair. Nairobi was distinct from Caracas in that the booths were inhabited mostly by NGOs with significant exhibition resources. The event involved roughly 1,300 organizations, and convened over 300 seminars and conferences and 1,200 self-organized events. It managed to bring delegations from every continent, including some “big-name” participants, such as Samir Amin, Walden Bello, and actor Danny Glover. It also brought together a significant number of LGBTI groups, and under the rubric “Peoples Struggles, Peoples Alternatives” covered a variety of issues, including gender and sexual- ity, water and food sovereignty, foreign aid and debt (which occupies over 20 percent of Kenya’s budget), healthcare and AIDS, immigra- tion, and North-South relations. The tents dispersed on the grounds of the complex housed a mix of groups and events, including hundreds of trade unionists from Sudan, large-scale human rights groups, and “Slum Cinema,” an NGO-funded project supporting grassroots film- making in the Kenyan slums. Slum Cinema was debuted at the 2007 WSF: films were broadcast in a makeshift tent outside the Forum; they were also shown in Kibera, a local slum, where hundreds of peo- ple screened “News from the Slums.” Indymedia was also present and sponsored hands-on projects aimed at involving local communications
students, some of whom were learning how to conduct radio broad- casts for the first time.
Despite these and other successes, the Nairobi WSF attracted roughly 40,000 participants, a third of what organizers expected. Part of the problem, identified by organizers and participants alike, was that the WSF was simply overpriced. For a city in which 56 percent of the population lives on $1 per day, $7.50 was untenable and for some, insulting. The issue was later resolved when a group of protestors set up a blockade; then organizers reduced the price to 75 cents, but for many Kenyans it was still cost-prohibitive (Sustar, 2007).
The process suffered a variety of other setbacks in addition to low turnout, including poor translation, a dysfunctional media center, shortage of printed programs, long lines for registration, power fail- ures, and poor signage. One of the main organizers— Kenyan Social Forum and WSF Kenya organizer, Onyango Oloo—linked these logis- tical problems to the larger problems of corruption at the level of the Secretariat and the “disappearance” of monies earmarked for infra- structure support. In addition, the event was highly commercialized, in part due to the sponsorship of CelTel, a large Kuwaiti cell phone company that made a 20 million shilling deal with the WSF Secretariat. The slick posters and billboards that adorned the city of Nairobi also functioned as advertisements for CelTel in blatant violation of the WSF’s anticorporate mandate. The commercial aspect of the event was also present in the market area on stadium grounds, where traditional African woodcarvings and textiles were sold alongside safari trips and phone cards. In addition to corporate sponsors, one critic reported, even the World Bank occupied a booth on Forum grounds.12
Kenyan soldiers searched the cars entering the sports complex and, like in Caracas, armed security guards were present in numbers. Moreover, the Kenyan government took charge of the organization of restaurant concessions and instead of hiring community groups that could sell food at affordable prices, they gave bids to family members of WSF organizers and state officials who sold concessions at “tour- ist” prices. Complaints were issued, before and after the WSF, that many volunteers were not paid and some verbally abused. Two female volunteers reported sexual harassment by organizers (Oloo, 2007).
While the Youth Camp filled only 250 of its spaces, the NGO pres- ence was overwhelming, which spurred the construction of a small, alternative Forum called “the Peoples Parliament” at a park in down- town Nairobi (Sustar, 2007). The prevalence of NGOs at the WSF remains a major point of contention among WSF constituents and
Nairobi only exacerbated the issue of whether NGOs were depoliti- cizing the event. At the close of the 2007 WSF, the Social Movements Assembly issued a statement signed by 2,000 WSF participants, addressing the problems of commercialization, militarization, the high price of admission, and the presence of organizations clearly not committed to opposing neoliberalism.
In addition, some post-WSF discussion focused on the Forum’s relationship to its host countries. The idea behind the Forum’s loca- tion in Africa was to stage it in a region that was vulnerable to the effects of neoliberalism as a kind of support. At the Forum, I spoke with two Kenyan participants, both of them food vendors who had been “locked out” by Kenyan officials. The men expressed concern over whether the WSF would have a positive effect on the country’s political problems, pointing to the violence that typically accom- panies elections in the country. Just one year after the WSF, Kenya erupted in postelection ethnic conflict associated with allegations of ballot rigging (these were confirmed). Extreme violence paralyzed the city for almost two months before a compromise was established. In keeping with the precepts of the open space, the WSF remained completely silent on the issue, despite its stated concern for the country (Gettleman, 2008).
the Global Days of Action 2008
Following the 2007 WSF, the IC decided at a meeting in October 2006 to stage the Forum on a biannual basis, recognizing the need for activists to regroup and reinvest their time in local activities and orga- nizations, including the development of local social forums. While this move toward decentralization began in 2006 with the “polycen- tric” experiment, the Council conceived of this decision as a response to its critics that it needed to become more “action-oriented.” Rather than become a centralized vehicle for the development of concerted actions, the Council decided to suspend the annual meeting in order to enable decentralized, local protest events during the meeting of the WEF in Davos at the end of January (Teivainen, 2008).
The experiment, called the “Global Days of Action,” was largely unsuccessful. Unlike the February 16, 2003 demonstrations against the Iraq War, there appeared to be little continuity among the protests and no central message or focus. While local activities did receive some press, especially in Mexico and Brazil, the event(s) did not make headlines in progressive or mainstream media.
World Social Forum 2009—belém
The eighth WSF took place from January 27 to February 1, 2009 in Belém, the capital of the Brazilian state of Pará. Belém is located 60 miles from the Atlantic Ocean on Guajara Bay at the mouth of the Amazon River. An outpost of the Portuguese Empire, for centu- ries the city functioned as a shipping point for the region’s national resources, a veritable “gateway” to the Amazon. Richly biodiverse, yet home to acute social inequality, Belém is now the largest city in the region with a population of roughly 1.5 million. Its natural resources, including aluminum, iron ore, and lumber, have brought wealth to only select groups of people, while severely stressing the ecological health of the area. The effects of deforestation, factory farming, and land abuse are apparent, as are the human costs of capital-driven development projects and prospecting (Swissinfo, 2009; Costello and Smith, 2009).
The 2009 WSF brought an estimated 133,000 participants from 142 countries to Belém, but the vast majority hailed from Brazil and other Latin American countries (Osava, 2009). In all, it attracted over 6,000 organizations; approximately 5,808 from Latin America and 1,600 from other parts of the world (491 from Europe; 489 from Africa; 334 from Asia; and 155 from North America). Attendance from media organizations totaled 4,500, including 2,000 journalists. Organizers also facilitated participation from those outside Belém through “Belém Expanded,” a new feature through which people could register and “attend” through Internet, TV, and radio. In addi- tion, significant numbers of indigenous groups colorfully marked the WSF in 2009: 1,900 indigenous people representing 190 ethnic groups ignited the event with their distinct styles of dress, music, and protest (ibid.).
The 2009 WSF also attracted significant numbers of young people. The Youth Camp was populated by roughly 15,000, and 3,000 attend- ees were teenagers or children. In addition to the Youth encampment, various groups erected large tents on the Forum grounds, a regu- lar feature at previous forums. In 2009, however, Stateless People also sponsored a tent, bringing Catalonians, Palestinians, Basques, Kurds, Roma, Tibetans, Saharawi, South American Mapuche, and Australian Aborigines together to share their experiences and coordi- nate actions (Osava, 2009). While “autonomous” areas like the Youth Camp and tent space attracted young and grassroots activists to the WSF, they also highlighted internal divisions and inequalities among
participants. According to InterPress Service news agency writer Mario Osava, “The diversity of WSF participants in Belém was visible too at the Federal Rural University of Amazonia (UFRA), where the Youth Camp and members of social movements were accommodated. The multitudes of people on this campus were visibility poorer than
those who attended the non-governmental organizations’ activities at the nearby Federal University of Pará (UFPA).”
In terms of activities, the WSF hosted 2,310 seminars and work- shops, spread over the two university campuses named above, orga- nized according to “Goals of Action” established prior to the event (see appendix 2). The general program included an opening-day march, “Pan-Amazon Day,” and various self-managed activities over the course of three days. The event closed with “Alliances Day”— also called the “Assembly of Assemblies”—that involved 21 the- matic assemblies on a broad range of issues, from food sovereignty to women’s rights to environmental concerns. The goal of Alliances Day was to enable participants to reflect on the week’s events and formulate alliances and proposals for action (WSF Belém, 2009). The WSF adopted dozens of resolutions that day, including programs to transform finance into a public good, the institution of a tax on inter- national financial transactions (a Tobin Tax), empowering the UN to regulate trade surpluses and deficits, controls on exchange rates and the movement of capital across borders, credit rating agency reform, and abolishing hedge funds and other high-risk banking prac- tices (The Economist, 2009). Participants also called for a week of mobilizations from March 28 to April 4, 2009, during the Economic Summit meeting in London, where Argentine and Brazilian leaders could express the sentiments of WSF constituents to other G20 rep- resentatives. A Palestinian Day of Return was planned for March 20, involving trade boycotts and divestment actions aimed at halting military activity and advancing the peace process. Attendees also planned an October 12 mobilization to commemorate the anniver- sary of Spain’s conquest of the Americas in honor of indigenous rights (Kirk, 2009). Alongside the main WSF, events were staged by “paral- lel” forums, such as the Assembly on the Forum of Local Authorities, the World Education Forum, the World Forum of Judges, the World Parliamentary Forum, the World Forum of Theology and Liberation, and the Forum on Sciences and Democracy (WSF Belém, 2009).
In addition to the new, more action-oriented format, two cen- tral themes occupied center stage in 2009: the environment and the world financial crisis. Workshops and assemblies on the environment
covered issues such as deforestation, the effects of mining and hydro- electric plants on ecosystems, and how the Brazilian government’s emphasis on biofuel production and the rise in beef exports have hurt the environment. Attendees focused on protecting the Amazon rain- forest, land dispossession, and other environment problems, but also considered solutions, from alternative tourism to fair trade to family- run farming. In some cases, seminar activity was complemented with fieldtrips to outside areas, like the city of Ulianopolis, 400 km south of Belém, where an estimated 18,000 km(sq) of primary forest has been cut down in the area in recent years. Costello and Smith (2009) report, however, that cross-fertilization among trade union- ists and environmental groups remained limited, despite the infamous “teamster-turtle” alliances formed on the streets of Seattle.
The global financial crisis offered another focal point for the meet- ing, or what many participants identified as the “death of neoliberal- ism.” WSF protagonists derided their WEF counterparts with claims of “we told you so,” asserting that the financial meltdown had indeed rendered the WSF’s critique of neoliberalism and goal to develop alter- natives more important than ever. Walden Bello claimed that “There is a clear collapse of neoliberalism. We have been triumphant over Davos . . . Now we need alternatives and must get down to the hard work of creating them” (Costello and Smith, 2009). Other partici- pants were not so optimistic, especially those from European coun- tries. They warned of a potential right-wing backlash or strengthening of the political class in light of the financial crisis, citing Berlusconi’s success in Italy, Sarkozy in France, and Brown in the UK just after the crisis hit (ibid.).
Perhaps the most significant development at the 2009 WSF, however, involved the participation of South American political leaders. Lula, accompanied by 12 cabinet ministers (including cabinet chief Dilma Rousseff, his possible successor), won favor with WSF participants by foregoing attendance at Davos and focusing his efforts on the WSF (Goodman, 2009). Alongside Lula, four other left-wing presidents attended, including Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), and Fernando Lugo (Paraguay). Despite the WSF’s nonpolitical and nonpartisan orientation, Bloomberg News reported that the event was funded by the Lula administration, which amounted to 78 million reals, or $34 million. Reuters reported that the expenditure fell more in the ballpark of $50 million, and the Economist quoted a sum of $120 Real or $52 million (Grudgings, 2009; The Economist, 2009). The presence of the five presidents was
lauded as a historic event, attracting a great deal of media coverage that was lacking at previous WSFs. Invited by the Forum on Local Authorities, the five presidents participated in a large-scale public meeting as well as a smaller sit-down with delegates from the social movements on the continent. The latter event enabled WSF groups to assert their political autonomy, and, in the case of Brazil, demand that land reform become a more pressing issue on Lula’s agenda (Ferrari, 2009). Discussion at the meetings focused on the global financial cri- sis, highlighting Latin America as a mode for economic cooperation and development. According to Chávez, only “21st century socialism” could solve the problems beset by neoliberal capitalism, and not the neoliberal investor class at Davos. Lula added that perhaps it was time for the IMF to start telling U.S. leaders how to fix their economies (Carroll, 2009). Chávez and Lula also used the platform to address the Obama camp: Chávez urged that Guantanamo Bay be returned to the people of Cuba, while Lula argued that the economic stim- ulus package was too protectionist (Caribbean World News, 2009; Associated Press, 2009).
Critics of the Forum once again focused on organizational issues, asserting that the management of the Forum venue was too unwieldy. Events were dispersed over two university campuses, roughly one and a half miles apart and some miles from the city. This required par- ticipants to ferry back and forth between venues or travel by taxibus or riverboat. The involvement of political parties, however, was a pri- mary focus of concern, as the five presidents—brought in by helicop- ter and surrounded by press and security personnel—were seen as potentially detracting from with the work of the WSF’s grassroots groups. Although the Forum focused on facilitating interconnections and dialogue, some wondered whether movement and other grass- roots groups would really have direct influence with the presidents, given the nature of their office and representative politics more gener- ally. In addition to political concerns, some participants criticized the inclusion of bank representatives, and, similar to the Nairobi WSF, complained that bottled water and food were being sold at inflated prices (Grudgings, 2009).
The IC decided to stage the WSF biannually with the next meet- ing set to take place in Senegal in 2011. Local forum continue to flourish. The U.S. Social Forum (USSF) took place from June 27 to July 1, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia and another is scheduled for 2010 in Detroit. The 2007 USSF was organized by a variety of groups, includ- ing Project South. Roughly 15,000 attended, addressing issues related
to movement-building as well as the effects of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and nationwide. The ESF resumed in 2006 in Athens, Greece, attracting an estimated 35,000 participants and 100,000 at the opening rally. The following year it convened in Malmö, Sweden, with nearly 10,000 attendees and a demonstration consisting of 15,000 activists from all over Europe.
* * *
An extension of the AGM, the WSF was founded initially as a venue in which various organizations and social movements could meet to formulate political, economic, and social alternatives to neoliberal- ism. The event was young, edgy, and political. Groups and movements that attended shared a genuine disdain for neoliberal institutions, like the IMF and World Bank, and mainstream forms of political repre- sentation that deflected power from ordinary people. Within the span of nine years, however, the popularity and political relevance of the WSF has varied significantly. With sustained growth in the first five years, attendance teetered in 2006 and 2007, though the Global Days of Action in 2008 did not attract the kind of concerted, international activity for which WSF participants had hoped. In 2009, the event attracted large numbers, but mostly from Latin American countries, which detracted from the WSF objective to operate as a global event or process. In general, the WSF has also been plagued by accusations that it has become more of a large-scale NGO event, rather than a meeting of grassroots groups and movements, and that this change in personnel has diluted the WSF’s radical, antineoliberal character. The variance in participation can be explained, in part, as a consequence of changing meeting sites and experimenting with new organizational forms. Beyond logistics, however, it should also be understood as a result of deep conflicts among constituent groups over questions of political organization and how to develop strategies for resisting neo- liberalism. Most certainly, such conflicts were operative in the loss of numbers at the ESF.
The three most prominent groups in the WSF include NGOs, anti- authoritarian social movements, and political party members. NGOs in the WSF range from social democrats, who position the WSF as a venue for the regeneration of an independent public sphere, to liberal organizations that make use of the WSF to network and bolster their specific projects, without really committing to its broader opposi- tion to neoliberalism. Alongside NGOs are a range of political party
actors, including democratic socialists associated with the Chávez administration; the Brazilian PT, which hosted the event in its early years; and Indian and European socialist and communist parties, some of which hold seats in their respective parliaments. While par- ties in the WSF disagree over systemic issues—whether the capitalist system is reformable, for instance—a common thread among them is their emphasis on the state as a protagonist in the fight against neolib- eralism. Third are anarchist and autonomous movement actors, who emphasize participatory democratic processes and organizational val- ues such as transparency and accountability. They envision the WSF as a free space for the development of antiauthoritarian (antistatist and horizontal) social relations and build a worldwide anticapitalist movement, while prefiguring the free society they seek to create. These and other key differences among these groups will be discussed in the upcoming chapters, with a focus on their respective ideas regarding social change and agency, how they balance organizational demands of movement-building with their desires for autonomy, and how they conceptualize freedom and openness.
3. Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs)
The controversies surrounding the organization of the 2007 WSF in Kenya and its official hiatus in 2008 gave birth to a series of debates within the International Council (IC) and among the WSF constitu- ency over the future of the WSF that persists to this day. Protagonists of the debate included Chico Whitaker, cofounder of the WSF, and Walden Bello, policy director of Focus on the Global South and out- spoken member of the IC. The debate focused primarily on the issue of whether the WSF should revise its Charter in order to take col- lective, public positions on vital political issues of the day, shed its nondeliberative character, and operate as a political force by using its broad-based constituency to contest the power of neoliberal states and organizations (Bello, 2007; Whitaker, 2007).
A coauthor of both the Porto Alegre Consensus and Bamako Appeal, Bello circulated an essay over the Internet that criticized the WSF for failing to adequately challenge neoliberal institutions and remain connected to its movement base: “the WSF as an institution is unanchored in actual global political struggles, and this is turn- ing it into an annual festival with limited social impact.” He argued that the WSF must move beyond its current liberal conception of the WSF open space and develop some common strategies and posi- tions, against Whitaker’s (2007) contention that such a move would transform the WSF into a social movement. At the end of his essay, Bello questioned whether the WSF had “fulfilled its historic function aggregating and linking the diverse counter-movements spawned by global capitalism?” He was suggesting that after its eight-year tenure, perhaps the WSF in its current form had become irrelevant.
Bello’s essay was widely circulated on WSF Internet channels. It caused a stir among WSF advocates and International Committee
members, especially Whitaker, an architect and staunch supporter of the open space paradigm, and many other key players. Deeply invested in the success of the WSF as cofounder and member of its organizing and steering committees, Whitaker is part of the appa- ratus that makes crucial decisions regarding the thematic content, location, and structure of the WSF. One of its most visible spokesper- sons, he defines the WSF open space in contradistinction to a social movement, which, he contends, operates hierarchically, makes deci- sions, engages in power struggles, and requires its members to adopt a homogenous political line:
A movement congregates people—its activists, as the activists of a party—decide to organize themselves to collectively accomplish certain objectives. Its formation and existence entails the definition of strate- gies to reach these objectives, the formulation of action programmes, and the distribution of responsibilities among its members—including those regarding the direction of the movement. (Whitaker, 2003b, ital- ics in original)
The open space of the WSF, by contrast, is an “open meeting place” and site of the “free exchange of experiences,” a noncoercive, nonhi- erarchical space in which “civil society” movements and groups can socialize and network. Participants do not risk being misrepresented by a larger body nor do they bear responsibility for the organization of the WSF or its outcomes: “They know they will not be given orders nor will they have to follow commands, nor have to report back on what they have done and not done, nor will they have to give proof of loyalty and discipline, nor will they be expelled if they don’t do this.” It provides each person with an equal right of expression; there are no final documents, and while individual groups and networks are encouraged to make their own declarations, no one may make them on behalf of the WSF as a whole. For Whitaker, this nondeliberative orientation safeguards the Forum from co-optation by political par- ties and social movements and protects the autonomy of each per- son or group involved in the process. Movements, on the other hand, “require leadership, responsibility, and commitment, and necessarily operate through pyramid structures and according to specific objec- tives.” For Whitaker (2003a, 2003b, 2005), the dogmatism of move- ments thwarts the production of new ideas and often leads to splits.
These debates, especially that between Whitaker and Bello, are a manifestation of more fundamental disagreements over issues
Box 1 Glossary of International Organizational Forms
Transnational Social Movements (TSMs)—Sidney Tarrow (2001:11) defines TSMs as “socially mobilized groups with constituents in at least two states, engaged in sustained contentious interaction with powerholders in at least one state other than their own, or against an international institution, or a multi- national economic actor.”
Transnational Activist (or Advocacy) Networks (TANs)— Coalitions of International NGOs (INGOs), social movements, and other political actors who join forces on issue-specific campaigns, such as the environment or human rights. Composed of “insiders” and “outsiders,” they are “partially autono- mous” and “issue-specific political life form(s)” that operate on a variety of geographic scales (Burgerman, 1998). For example, “Human rights network activists of European origin maybe found lobbying the US Congress advocat- ing aid to an African nation, a London-based Amnesty International letter writing campaign will mobilize individuals of many nationalities to address protests to the Syrian government, and so on” (907).
“Networks of activists [that] operate across borders, within political sys- tems irrespective of their nationality, occupying a political space that ignores the boundaries between states; they infiltrate government and intergovernmen- tal bureaucracies; they attempt, with varying degrees of success, to engage in the arena of international politics formerly considered the sole preserve of states; they are simultaneously insiders and outsiders. As insiders, they are citizens whose political voice may be based entirely on resources provided by international allies. As outsiders, they are politically active non-citizens who ‘stay involved over a period of time, still identified with international sources of power,’ who ‘become built into the political institutions of the country’ ” (921)
According to Tarrow (1998:13), TANs should not be considered as alterna- tives to social movements, rather “they contain them—in the loose way that networks contain anything—as well as containing government agents in either their official or unofficial capacities.”
International NGOs (INGOs)—“operate independently of governments, are composed of members from two or more countries, and are organized to advance their members’ international goals and provide services to citizens of other states through routine transactions with states, private actors, and inter- national institutions” (Tarrow, 2001:12)
TANs, INGOs, and TSMs that participate in the WSF and Global Justice Movement tend to be lumped together in academic and popular discourse because they appear to share many of the same social change goals. Tarrow distinguishes INGOs from TSMs, which tend to engage in more noninstitu- tional forms of contentious action against powerholders. According to his def- inition, INGOs are independent advocates and service-providers that engage in “routine transactions” with state, private, and international actors. TANs, on the other hand, may include INGOs, TSMs, and “those relevant actors working internationally on an issue, who are bound together by shared values, a common discourse, and dense exchanges of information and services” (Keck and Sikkink, 1998:2).
of agency, organization, and social change, and, more specifi- cally, regarding the WSF’s role in subverting neoliberalism. While Whitaker’s view represents a seemingly liberal democratic, but cer- tainly pluralist, view of the WSF open space, Bello argues, perhaps inadvertently, for a more deliberative democratic model to engage the WSF constituency more directly with the political and financial insti- tutions it seeks to contest.
This chapter looks at the contributions of liberal and social demo- cratic NGOs in the WSF, in terms of how they balance the organiza- tional requisites of building an egalitarian society with their desires to protect the autonomy of their constituents. It analyzes their respective views regarding what constitutes freedom and how it can be realized organizationally. In the process, it uncovers contradictions within their idea systems and practices, including how the WSF’s Charter, with its emphasis on personal responsibility and individual rights, actually utilizes some of the same logics as neoliberalism, despite the Forum’s ostensible opposition to it.
Ngos and Political Organization
Countless social theorists and political pundits have pointed to the mushrooming of NGOs in the latter part of the twentieth century. The term “nongovernmental organization” originated with the estab- lishment of the UN in 1945, when Article 71 of the UN Charter reserved an institutional space for consultation with organizations that were neither governments nor member states (Chapter 10). By 2000, some 2 million NGOs were operative in the United States, the majority of them (70 percent) less than 30 years old. That same year, the number of “grassroots groups” in India hit the 1 million mark and roughly 100,000 NGOs were formed in Eastern Europe between 1988 and 1995. There were over 65,000 NGOs in Russia in 2000 and in Kenya, approximately 240 new NGOs were being founded each year (Economist, 1999, 2000).
In addition to the influx of domestic NGOs in nations around the world, INGOs also proliferated at an alarming rate. Boli and Thomas (1999:20) report that nearly 6,000 INGOs were founded between 1875 and 1988, most of which emerged shortly after the founding of the UN, and according to the Economist, the number rose from 6,000 in 1990 to 26,000 in 1996. The 2002 UNDP Human Development Report corroborates these numbers, stating that nearly one-fifth of the world’s 37,000 INGOs were formed in the 1990s. The recent
surge in INGO activity has been accompanied by the emergence of other new organizational forms listed in Box 1.
In both popular and academic discourse, NGOs tend to be under- stood, in aggregate, as constitutive of a sphere of “civil society,” separate from states and untainted by corporate interests. While some NGOs, called Govenment Organized NGOs (GONGOs) or QUANGOS (quasi-NGOs), are directly associated with states, most identify as nonstate and noncorporate actors that act on behalf of special interests. Aside from serving a consultative role at the UN, for example, they provide direct services, such as family planning, health care, and housing and water resources, and play a key role in imple- menting development agendas, from the delivery of foreign aid to the institution of microcredit. According to the Economist (1999, 2000), “Much of the food delivered by the World Food Programme, a UN body, in Albania [in 1999] was actually handed out by NGOs work- ing in the refugee camps. Between 1990 and 1994, the proportion of the European Union’s relief aid channelled through NGOs rose from 47 percent to 67 percent. The Red Cross reckons that NGOs now dis- burse more money than the World Bank.” Groups like Doctors with- out Borders (MSF) and Oxfam International (which funds the WSF) provide services and foreign aid, and some supplement these efforts with advocacy campaigns. In addition, a host of religious organiza- tions, like Catholic Relief and Christian Aid (another WSF funder), get involved in aid delivery as part of their missionary work. In the case of Christian Aid, for example, the organization itself does not claim to be engaged in missionary work, but is sponsored by 41 churches in the UK and is listed as a “mission organization” in OSCAR, an information service that places Christian missionaries throughout the world.
NGOs also serve as “expert” or technical consultants to the UN and in a broad array of other settings. In the 1990s, for example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in coalition with various other groups, sponsored teams of scientists to exhume the mass graves of people massacred during Guatemala’s 35-year civil conflict. AAAS experts played an important role in pro- viding forensic evidence to scientifically document massacres per- petrated by members of the Guatemalan military and paramilitary, some of whom still held positions in the Guatemalan government at the time (Network of Concerned Historians, 2006). To quote another example, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) employs teams of scientific and legal experts to advise on a broad range of high-
profile litigation and legislative campaigns for environmental justice, from the Navy’s use of sonar to legislation on global warming.
In addition to consultative work, NGOs engage in what Keck and Sikkink (1998) call “information politics.” They gain influence with states and other target actors by “generating politically usable infor- mation,” disseminating it through (sometimes sophisticated) net- work channels and “serving as alternative sources of information” for states and other institutions, like the UN or World Bank (Keck and Sikkink, 1998:19). NGO-generated information may be techni- cal or testimonial, or be used to frame and present “the facts.” In Keck and Sikkink’s formulation, information politics involves using information to enact policy change and garner support, and strug- gling over norms and values, including what is defined as technical knowledge or which local knowledges and experiences count as sig- nificant. Development NGOs involved in “information politics” have been criticized for pushing Western values and economic practices with little regard for cultural particularities. As Keck and Sikkink point out, “local people . . . sometimes lose control over their stories in a transnational campaign” (19). Postcolonial theorists like Pheng Cheah (1997) point to NGOs’ tendency toward cultural imperial- ism vis-à-vis the imposition of universal normative conceptions of “human rights” or “feminism” that is oftentimes at odds with local realities and practices.
In many cases, NGOs’ roles as information and foreign aid pro- viders overlap with their advocacy efforts. A strong tendency among NGOs, especially those involved in Transnational Advocacy Networks (see Box 1), is their identification as watchdogs, whose goal is to make states, corporations, and international institutions more accountable to their publics (Keck and Sikkink, 1988:2). Amnesty International (2006), for example, carries out its mission “to protect human rights worldwide” by working to “mobilize the public to put pressure on governments and others with influence to stop the abuses”; the Global Policy Forum’s (2009) mission involves monitoring “policy making at the United Nations, promote accountability of global decisions, educate and mobilize for global citizen participation, and advocate on vital issues of international peace and justice”; Human Rights Watch (2009) is “dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world,” it aims to “challenge governments and those who hold power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights law” by “enlist(ing) the public and the international community to support the cause of human rights for all” and so on. These and other
NGOs attempt to shape public opinion and engage in media crusades to force changes in domestic policy, protect citizens from abuses gen- erated or ignored by their own governments, or, on the other side of the fence, aid governments in quashing armed insurrections.
Ngos as Political Actors
In a widely circulated essay in Foreign Affairs, the Head of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Jessica Matthews (1997) reflected on the political significance of NGOs in the world political scene since the latter part of the twentieth century:
The end of the Cold War has brought no mere adjustment among states but a novel redistribution of power among states, markets, and civil society. National governments are not simply losing autonomy in a globalizing economy. They are sharing powers—including political, social, and security roles at the core of sovereignty—with businesses, with international organizations, and with a multitude of citizens groups, known as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The steady concentration of power in the hands of states that began in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia is over, at least for a while.
The direction of this “power shift” and the character of what Saskia Sassen (1999) has called a “new geography of power” remains open to debate and sometimes, wild speculation. Some situate NGOs as constituents of a “new layer of suprastate power” that is reconfigur- ing the Westphalian sovereign order (Hardt and Negri, 2000). Others see them as part of a world order or system ultimately governed by powerful states (Smith, 2003; Wallerstein, 1996; Aronowitz and Bratsis, 2002; Tarrow, 2005). Critics identify them as part and par- cel of dominant political and economic power structures, while their advocates see them as agents of pluralism and democracy—a politics “from below.”
It is safe to say that while NGOs employ distinct sets of power resources of their own, they also share and contest state and corpo- rate power—they are far from “independent.” In a 1998 study, for example, Clark et al. looked at NGOs’ participation at UN meet- ings to assess their international political significance and address the question, posed by Matthews and many others, as to whether they constitute a newly emerging “global civil society” (1–3). The authors studied how NGOs set agendas at three UN megaconferences as a
gauge of their influence. They reported that while some NGOs “avidly target intergovernmental politics as they lobby and help formulate, implement, and monitor the policies of states and intergovernmen- tal organizations,” others “eschew traditional political channels” and operate more like social movements. Most of them, however, interact with both sets of actors, “coordinating dialogue with the grassroots sector and (use) lobbying tactics to target governmental and interna- tional policymakers” (3).
In addition to attending UN meetings, the NGOs in the Clark et al.’s study organized parallel “NGO Forums” in close geographic proximity to UN meetings. Within these Forums, participants were polarized into two groups: “lobbyists” and “networkers.” Powerful, resource-rich lobbyist NGOs from the Global North were afforded entry to the UN’s official program. Networkers from the South with significantly less resources, information, and political capital were denied access. For both networkers and lobbyists, knowledge and experience of complicated UN processes served as an important resource, but when the NGO Forums grew in size and scope, so did the disparity of knowledge among them as well as the level of compe- tition for financial resources and UN recognition. The more powerful NGO lobbyists perceived networkers as a threat to their hard-won positions in the main UN meetings, while networkers saw the lob- byists as “legitimating an illegitimate process and wasting time and resources on useless governmental proposals” (6). On the upside, the researchers found that the southern NGOs did broaden the agendas of the NGO Forums and created opportunities for North-South net- working and information dissemination (8). Clark et al. concluded that although NGOs established a strong presence at the UN, their involvement over the past six decades has not translated into signifi- cant influence, let alone a circumvention of states’ sovereignty. They argue against “global civil society” theorists, asserting that states still dominate the agenda at the UN, especially over issues directly related to state sovereignty. The degree of power that they do exer- cise at the UN derives largely from their legitimating functions: a primary power resource of the NGOs in the study was their abil- ity to shape public opinion and spur outrage from other states and international actors by taking advantage of the media presence at the UN (4). But as the Iraq War evinced, widespread international out- rage is still not enough to thwart the actions of such a powerful state. As Sidney Tarrow (2001) put it, “If norms could be shown to have an autonomous role in structuring international debate irrespective of
the policies of strong states, and if it could be shown that interests are constituted and reconstituted around learning, norm diffusion, and identity shift, then nonstate actors in transnational space—not only hegemonic states—could be shown to have teeth.”
Susan Burgerman’s (1998) study of transnational human rights NGOs confirms Clark et al.’s findings. Burgerman studied the forma- tion of advocacy networks that promoted human rights in Guatemala and El Salvador in the late 1970s and 1980s. In particular, she looked at how human rights activists challenged the Guatemalan and Salvadoran governments by lobbying their state officials to take action and installing “themselves as quasi-members of the domestic political systems, providing vulnerable populations with sources of protection alternative to the state itself” (906).
Burgerman charted the processes through which NGOs orga- nized themselves into networks and applied political pressure. The NGOs and TANs in her study operated outside (but in relation to) states, forging alliances with some state actors, while admonishing others. Network-building in these cases involved political-geographic flexibility as multinational network actors entered countries’ politi- cal systems through local channels, and in doing so, simultaneously maintained and bridged the outsider/insider divide that separated local from international actors and institutions. This flexibility allowed nonlocals to participate directly in domestic affairs, while making claims and garnering support among a variety of actors that operated on different, often transnational, scales (Burgerman, 1998:907).
Like Clark et al., the Burgerman study demonstrates how NGOs pool expertise, information, financial, and other resources, including geographic proximity and local political access, through the devel- opment of advocacy networks. She also identifies NGO networks as “moral regimes” that perform legitimating functions for states. While these moral and technical regimes tend to lack the resources of a typical political action committee, they do shape public opinion and can stimulate moral outrage through large-scale media campaigns, enabled by new technologies. Hence, despite their position(s) as “out- siders,” NGOs shape public opinion within particular states as well as internationalized institutions.
In essence, NGOs and TANs wield state power without consol- idating it. They manipulate states’ interdependence and power dif- ferentials: powerful states may be sensitive to claims that tarnish their international reputations, while economically dependant states may be vulnerable to sanctions, as in the case of South Africa during
apartheid (909). Despite the weight of human rights NGOs’ claims and their successes in leveraging states against each other, Clark et al. and Burgerman both demonstrate decisively that these crusades are often executed with careful diplomacy and are still very much subject to the whims of state power.
More critical accounts of NGOs’ political activities position them as agents of neoliberalism that perform legitimating functions for pri- vatization efforts and even warfare within the context of capitalist lib- eral democracies, or as part of their neolcolonial endeavors (Harvey, 2005; Purcell, 2008; Petras, 1997). While the movements in Eastern Europe that toppled the Berlin Wall exalted “civil society” as a major player in the struggle against state tyranny and government bureau- cracy, the 1990s ushered in, with the help of NGOs, a new liberal- ism and free market that appeared more “human” than it had in the decade before. Take, for instance, the popularity of books like Paul Hawken’s Natural Capitalism, alongside incessant calls for the bol- stering of communities and civic involvement through volunteerism, and the increasing co-optation of gay and environmental rights causes into the corporate sphere. The Earth Day and Millennium March ral- lies in Washington, DC, in 2000, for example, involved a who’s who of multinational corporate sponsors, including DuPont Pharmaceuticals, which has one of the worst environmental records on file and a his- tory of conflict with gay activists (Doane et al., 2000).
Neoliberal financialization extended its reach to the developing world through the institution of microcredit, also cloaked in catch- phrases like “aid” and “development.” Microcredit involves drafting loans to populations deemed a credit risk or “unbankable.” Instead of being directly administered by multinational banks, however, NGOs like Oxfam (a funder of the WSF) have served as ambassa- dors of microcredit systems in the developing world. While micro- credit is widely lauded as a successful means of empowering poor and disadvantaged populations, especially in developing countries, Randy Martin tells how Village Banks that administer these small loans “operate through ‘peer pressure,’ in which village authori- ties ensure that debts are repaid. This has led to violence and abuse against women otherwise deemed good credit risks” (Martin, 2003:214). Martin locates microcredit as part of the “financializa- tion of the poor”: “In the 1980s, the global poor fell into that vast trench of the ‘unbankable’. . . By 1999, microcredit had been extended to 23 million clients, 75 percent of whom were women . . . As some studies of the Grameen Bank suggest, being a good credit risk may
not be good for women. Far from creating self-sufficiency, the global initiative might more readily increase dependency” (ibid.) Martin
points out that historically development programs involved “large- scale infusion of first-world industrial products to create urban cen- ters of cheap labor. In contrast, the financialization of the poor can proceed with comparatively little investment. Bamboo stools can be made without advances in public health or infrastructure ”
In addition to equating finance with “aid,” development NGOs enable structural adjustment policies by performing social welfare services only for select (nonpolitical) groups of people, which may have once been provided to the entire population by states. In a now well-known essay in Monthly Review, James Petras (1997) argued that “as the neoliberal regimes at the top devastated communities by inundating the country with cheap imports, extracting external debt payment, abolishing labor legislation, and creating a growing mass of low-paid and unemployed workers, the NGOs were funded to pro- vide ‘self-help’ projects, ‘popular education,’ and job training, to tem- porarily absorb small groups of poor, to co-opt local leaders, and to undermine anti-system struggles.” Accountable to and dependent upon foreign donors, NGOs cannot provide services at the level and consistency of states and, as Martin and Petras point out, large num- bers of people have come to depend on international organizations and institutions, which often make decisions that are divorced from the realities of their everyday lives (ibid.) Moreover, “self-help” agen- das further exacerbate the problem by disabling trade union and social movement activity and instilling an ethic of personal responsibility in place of public accountability and social welfare.
Ngos in the World Social Forum
The nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that descended on Seattle were a model of everything the trade negotiations were not. They were well organized. They built unusual coalitions (environmental and labor groups, for instance, bridged old gulfs to jeer the WTO together). They had a clear agenda to derail the talks. And they were masterly users of the media. (Brecher et al., 2002:82)
As the above quote asserts, NGOs have played an important role in the development of the AGM. An NGO called the Bern Declaration, for example, staged “Public Eye on Davos,” a countersummit to the WEF that demanded increased transparency and accountability
on trade and financial decisions. Founded in Switzerland in 1968, the Bern Declaration (2006) campaigns on development issues and “work(s) towards more equitable North-South relations through research, public education, and advocacy work.” An independent entity that derives most of its revenues from individual membership fees and donations, it boasts a membership in the tens of thousands. NGOs like Public Citizen, Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for Assistance to Citizens (ATTAC), and Focus on the Global South, among several others, were also actively involved in AGM protests, from Seattle to Genoa, and prior to the WSF, staged protests and countersummits outside the WEF.
In addition to protesting the WEF from the outside, NGOs were invited to participate in the WEF annual meeting in 2000, just two months after the Seattle protests. Amnesty International, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, Transparency International, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Focus on the Global South (Walden Bello’s group), and Save the Children (the latter three funded the WSF) attended the Forum, but Friends of the Earth and Focus on the Global South were not invited back in 2001 because they were deemed too critical. In the following year, key members of left-leaning NGOs were invited to the WEF annual meeting, including Lori Wallach (Public Citizen), Martin Khor (Third World Network in Malaysia), Vandana Shiva (Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology in India), and Vicki Tauli (Indigenous People’s International in the Philippines). None of these representatives were asked back to the WEF. In addition, Public Eye on Davos attendees were invited to a debate with members of the WEF in 2002, but reported afterward that the event merely served as an opportunity for the WEF “to counter its critics by saying it had engaged in open dialogue with them” (Bern Declaration, 2006). In addition to inviting NGOs to public debates, in 2003, 2004, and 2005 the WEF held the “Open Forum Davos” parallel to its annual meeting. The Financial Times contended that the Open Forum oper- ated as a way for the WEF to silence its critics, which involved more mainstream NGOs like Human Rights Watch and the Swiss Red Cross, as well as UN representatives, church organizations, and busi- ness leaders.
In addition to their involvement in the AGM protests and anti-WEF pressure campaigns, NGOs played a key role in the development of the WSF and have participated in greater numbers each year. A London School of Economics (LSE) study reported a sharp increase in the involvement of NGOs and other activists at “civil society” meetings
with no corresponding “official summit,” that is, at local, regional, and world social forum(s). The study found that in 2005, social forums—local, regional, and global—accounted for 30 percent of all “global civil society events,” whereas parallel summits accounted for 26 percent and UN conferences, 9 percent. Moreover, the LSE study reported that 50 percent of respondents took part in a “global civil society event” without a corresponding “official summit,” while 37 percent attended UN conferences—an increase from 12 percent in the early 1990s. These data suggest that in 2004–2005, NGO attendance at the social forums rose and may actually have replaced NGO Forums as the preferred meeting venue (Pianta et al., 2005).
In addition to sharing personnel, NGOs Forums have significantly influenced the structure and organization of the WSF, and contrib- uted significant financial and human resources since its inception. The Brazilian Association of Nongovernmental Organizations, or ABONG helped organize the first WSFs, and the WSF International and Organizing committees are largely comprised of NGOs and international unions (Waterman, 2004. In addition, NGO Forums influenced the timing and location of the WSF as well as its organi- zational and normative structures. For instance, the WSF mimicked NGOs’ practice of staging “parallel” summits at the UN and other meetings by scheduling the WSF annual meeting to coincide with that of the WEF. While Public Eye on Davos and other anti-WEF cam- paigns camped outside the meeting in Davos, the decision to locate the WSF in Porto Alegre was strategic: the WSF “had to be in the ‘Third World’—because that would also have a symbolic effect” (Whitaker, 2005). While the southern location could be seen as a critique of the NGO “lobbyists” that alienated southern NGOs at the UN and other venues, some of the same conflicts between northern and southern NGOs persisted in the Forum. Walden Bello recounts:
At the start, there were tensions between Northern-based civil society groups and Southern groups. Many Southern groups initially felt that some of the groups in Europe was driving the agenda too much. There was a sense among many that the European and Latin American pres- ence in the WSF was too strong and the presence of groups from Asia and Africa was quite weak. (Calpotura and Bello, 2004)
Nonetheless, the WSF’s identity as a forum of the Global South was operative in attracting grassroots social movements and highlighting the northern elitism of the WEF.
While the “open space” of the Forum can be attributed to the orga- nizational insights of antiauthoritarian social movement and anar- chist actors, its structure should also be understood as informed by NGO Forums. According to the Charter of Principles, the WSF’s “open space” was meant to facilitate the production of solidarity net- works, while remaining open to the variety of issues that occupy its constituents’ agendas. The Charter describes the WSF as an “open meeting place” for “free exchange” that is “plural and diversified,” nonpartisan and “nongovernmental”—a noncoercive, nonhierarchi- cal space in which NGOs can network without having to adopt a political line. Other parts of the Charter that support this objective specify that the WSF is not a representational body and that no one person or group is empowered to speak on behalf of the Forum as a whole. This is especially meaningful for NGOs that deny explicit involvement in party politics, represent special interests, and tend to work within the limits of single-issue campaigns. Moreover, while the WSF has not published data on the actual number of NGOs in the Forum, the registration structure privileges organizations over indi- viduals. Individual persons can register as “observers,” but one must represent an organization to be granted “delegate” status.
The WSF Charter of Principles also reflects NGO norms. In addition to establishing the WSF as a nonpartisan event, the Charter identifies the Forum as constituted by groups and movements of “civil society.” It explicitly excludes militant groups that engage in armed resistance efforts or advocate political violence. Within the context of the AGM, NGOs have denounced violence at protests, including property dam- age executed by “black bloc” and other activists.1 In this light, the WSF appears as a welcome alternative for NGOs that wish to avoid interacting with the more confrontational groups in the AGM.
In addition to their influence on the structure and objectives of the WSF, NGOs have played a significant role in funding and organiz- ing the WSF since the beginning. NGO funders included ActionAid; Comité Catholique contre la Faim et pour le Développement; Christian Aid; Enfants et développement “Save the Children”; the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development; Oxfam GB; Novib; and the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation. Philanthropic nongov- ernmental organizations, such as the Ford, Rockefeller Brothers, and
H. Boll foundations, provided financial support over the years, except in 2004, when the WSF India rejected funding from Ford. Ford sup- ported India’s Green Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, which laid the groundwork for neoliberal agricultural policies, including the
privatization of water, seeds, and plants. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)), an organizer of the 2004 WSF, also con- tended that Ford and the Green Revolution veered India away from undergoing communist revolution (Jordan, 2004).
* * *
NGOs that participate in the WSF operate according to assumptions, functions, and with sets of power resources that are distinct from, and in contention with, other political actors, as well as each other. In the context of the WSF, the debate between Whitaker and Bello over the future of the WSF represents two competing views regarding the ways in which problems like poverty and uneven development can best be solved by states, NGOs, and market actors. These views cor- respond to differences among NGOs over issues of political organi- zation and democratic practice. While Whitaker himself could hardly be called a liberal democrat (he was, after all, an elected member of the Brazilian PT), development and other mainstream NGOs partic- ipate in the WSF with or without actually agreeing to its antineolib- eral orientation because the prevailing conception of the open space defended by Whitaker bears a deep imprint of liberal democratic ide- ology that allows, if not invites, their participation and influence. In the liberal tradition, the WSF Charter locates freedom as a freedom from political organization and collective decision making, which enables mainstream development NGOs to maintain their focus on issue-based projects at the behest of special interests. Progressive NGOs and social democrats, on the other hand, offer an alternative conception of the WSF that involves the collective regeneration of an independent public sphere that seeks to render market and state actors more accountable to everyday people.
Liberal Democratic Ngos and the Wsf Open Space
The role of civil society in legitimating the work of the capitalist state was a concern of Marxist scholars in the twentieth century, espe- cially Gramsci, who identified civil society as a site of class struggle over what he called the “common sense.” For him, civil society was a contested sphere in which new modes of revolutionary consciousness could be developed and realized through processes of class formation (as opposed to class as representation), education, cultural produc- tion, and the development of organic intellectuals through contesting dominant ideological systems and creating new ones. In The Prison
Notebooks, he analyzed the cultural underpinnings of capitalism, asserting that bourgeois hegemony and social inequality relied upon the consent of the masses, practiced within the domain of everyday life. Gramsci believed that direct confrontation of state power (a war of maneuver) was untenable in advanced democratic societies. Rather, he emphasized the importance of popular culture, commu- nication, and belief systems in constituting a counterhegemony (war of position) against the ideological domination of the ruling class. Rather than imagine the state in Hegelian terms as the culmination of particular interests in the realm of the universal, Gramsci reversed the tide, conceiving civil society as a realm of particular interests that would be operative in the withering of the state. Strengthening civil society would cast power back in the hands of self-determined peo- ple, rather than consolidate it in a state of the ruling class. Instead of viewing the state as a mediator among citizens and institutions in a diverse society, Gramsci saw the institutions of civil society—the school, the union—as opening the state and destabilizing its author- itarian tendencies.
Gramsci’s conception of civil society differs radically from that of many NGOs. Today’s NGOs tend to see themselves as important agents in the defeat of authoritarian states, and as vital constituents of capitalist liberal democracy, rather than agents of class struggle. The roots of neoliberalism’s anticommunism can be located in the work of liberal theorists like Karl Popper, who dismissed Marxist theories of class and social change as determinist and authoritarian. Popper believed that Marxism’s interest in historical tendencies operated against human freedom because it cut off the possibility for creativity, rational engagement, personal development, and social and intellec- tual mobility. In Open Societies within liberal, capitalist democra- cies, one’s class cannot be predetermined because individuals are free to choose their place in society (Lessnoff, 1980:116–117). In turn, Popper rejected Marxism’s anticapitalism by pointing to capitalist societies’ ability to forge compromises between previously antago- nistic social classes. For him, the overthrow of capitalism was not a necessary condition for emancipation from inequality because he believed that capitalism had solved its own contradictions.
In the WSF, both liberal and social democratic NGOs who posit civil society as a site of democratic freedom and antidote to communist authoritarianism prevail over a minority of Marxists and anarchists who understand civil society as an arm of the neoliberal, capitalist state. Their ideas regarding social change and its agents prevail in the
WSF because they are embedded in the structure and organization of the event itself as well as its institutional guidelines, the Charter of Principles. Developed after the first WSF in 2001, the Charter defines the Forum as an “open space,” a unique form of assembly open to peo- ple of all political persuasions. The space itself was ostensibly orga- nized in a nonhierarchical fashion to serve as a place in which “civil society” groups could socialize and develop decentralized networks without having to deliberate on political issues, or risk being misrep- resented by a centralized WSF body. Following this logic, the WSF was founded as a nonpartisan entity to protect it from co-optation by political parties. Its proponents, especially Whitaker, continue to reject proposals to politicize the WSF because they assume that the ideological diversity of its participants preclude the Forum’s poten- tial to undertake deliberative and action-oriented functions without becoming centralized, hierarchical, and coercive. As mentioned previ- ously, his contention is that movements make decisions, engage in power struggles, and require that their members adhere to a homoge- nous political orientation. By contrast, each person in the open space of the WSF has an equal right of expression, despite their not having an equal chance of it, and are not required to submit to a political line. There are no final documents and no one is authorized to make declarations on behalf of the Forum. Individual groups and networks are encouraged to make their own declarations, but not make them on behalf of the Forum; within the space, they have the freedom to be as “political” as they choose:
The Forum allows each participant to maintain his/her freedom to choose the sector or the level in which to act. This action can be either very wide and comprehensive or rather restricted; it might intend to address either the deeper causes of the problems the world faces or the superficial effects of those problems. The vast range of themes dis- cussed during the Forum and the objectives sought in it can thus be very wide, such is the range of changes required for the construction of a new world. (Whitaker, 2003b)
In some respects, the WSF Charter’s definition of the open space actually mimics the laissez-faire tenets of neoliberalism, despite the WSF’s stated opposition to it. Similar to Popper’s concept of the Open Society, for example, the Charter defines “openness” as a guaran- tee of participants’ universal (equal) right to access and represent themselves in the Forum, and presumes that when organizations and
groups assume unified positions on political or action-oriented issues, their individual liberty is compromised in the deliberative process. Similar to neoliberalism’s antagonism to the bureaucratic state, this conception of the open space reflects an understanding of freedom as freedom from structure, rather than seeing organization as a way to foster individuals’ freedom to collectively articulate their desires for change and take part in organizing their resistance, as well as alterna- tives. Whitaker also conceptualizes the WSF as self-organized space, without power differentials. Critics like Walden Bello and Le Monde’s Ramonet, on the other hand, argue that deliberation need not com- promise the openness of the space, and that the political fragmenta- tion of the WSF constituency and its overall lack of coordination may actually stymie its potential to create alternative social and politi- cal institutions and directly confront the neoliberal agents it opposes (Bello, 2007; Ramonet, 2006; Lee, 2006). Others point to the ways in which the lack of coordination has resulted in the marginalization of resource-poor groups by large-scale NGOs.
Prior to the 2006 polycentric WSFs, for example, proposals to establish common set of themes across the three forums were rejected by Whitaker and other International Committee members. Despite having decided where the WSFs are held as well as who speaks and in which venues, the IC sacrificed thematic coherence for a sym- bolic show of support for local autonomy. In defense of the decision, Whitaker lauded the benefits of self-organization, pointing out that the Internet registration process enabled participants “to find out about the proposals from others, with common themes and conver- gences appearing quite naturally.” In Caracas, what “naturally” hap- pened was that Latin American issues and the Chávez government dominated the event, while self-organized workshops and the Youth Camp were placed in marginal venues and did not have the technical resources or notoriety to attract significant numbers of attendees or media attention.
Embedded in debates over the open space is the fundamental question of how the open space is being used to mitigate the ten- sion between WSF constituents’ desires for freedom and the orga- nizational requisites of opposing neoliberalism and enacting social change. While most WSF participants point to the “unity through diversity” the WSF promotes and its festival-like atmosphere, others have expressed dissatisfaction at the chaotic, fragmentary nature of the event and the ways in which the open space has actually pre- cluded the forging of intermovement connections and networks that
the WSF claims to facilitate. Whitaker dismisses the need for struc- ture and capacity-building, yet without a sound methodology to guide participation and engage participants in the WSF’s development, many people—without a stake in the process—have lost interest and focused their resources elsewhere. Among organizations that do attend, informal (and formal) hierarchies have stimulated accusations of bad faith that have only exacerbated over the years with the influx of well-funded NGOs and the IC’s failure to make its proceedings more transparent.
Jo Freeman’s (1972) famous essay “The Tyranny of Structure- lessness” elucidates the drawbacks of such structurelessness and the contradictions and difficulties of implementing nonhierarchical, decentralized forms of organization at the practical level. In her essay, Freeman criticizes and questions the viability of the New Left’s fetish for structurelessness, which she asserts became “a goddess in its own right” (151). Desires for self-determination and backlash against the conformism of the 1950s were articulated not only against large-scale social structures like the state and market institutions, but were also manifest in contests over organization within movements and other countercultural social formations.
While acknowledging the importance of the New Left’s insistence on practicing freedom and democracy at all levels of social life, and feminism’s aim to realize nonhierarchical ways of communicating and organizing, Freeman criticized laissez-faire organization for its ten- dency to “mask power.” For Freeman, New Left structurelessness did not eliminate power hierarchies within organizations, but allowed for the development of informal elites and hierarchies that were all the worse for not being managed by explicit procedures or operational principles. Moreover, she argued, “structureless” organization was simply not effective in building political organization beyond “con- sciousness raising” rap groups. While structurelessness allowed for reflection and discussion in intimate, exploratory settings, it was not effective for goal-oriented projects or large assemblies. As a conse- quence, “Many (feminists) turn(ed) to other political organizations to give them the kind of structured, effective activity that they (had) not been able to find in the women’s movement” (161).
SDS suffered a similar fate. At the time of the Port Huron state- ment in 1962, SDS was firmly rooted in participatory, democratic, and loosely structured organization, but by the late 1960s, it became deeply concerned with questions of political organization in order to satisfy the imperatives of sustaining the movement and ensuring its
spread beyond the university into trade unions and other communities. While the New Left maintained its healthy disdain for the authoritar- ian practices of the Old Left, its loose organizational structure could not sustain a popular base after the civil rights movement began to dissolve and Nixon abolished the draft (in 1970) (ibid.). Internal con- flicts over organization and strategy split SDS along sectarian lines and a portion of its leadership went underground. A veteran of the movement, Stanley Aronowitz, has argued that the New Left’s lack of a centralized apparatus “lead to bureaucratization and worse, to the inevitable integration of the movement into the liberal mainstream,” setting the stage for the movement’s devolution into single-issue poli- tics and loss of a valuable opportunity to create a broad-based politi- cal organization of the Left (Aronowitz, 2006a).
The Chico Whitaker interpretation of the open space assumes that an invisible hand, and not planning and organization, creates linkages and affinity among activists and organizations. This laissez- faire conception of the open space actually favors liberal democratic NGOs, perhaps more than any other group, though participants com- plain that the WSF process has been largely “taken over” by NGOs. For example, the Charter defines the WSF constituency as “composed of groups and movements of civil society”—which, in popular and academic parlance, is code for NGO. In addition, the exclusion of political parties and nondeliberative character allows NGOs to main- tain their fragmented and narrow focus on special interests and an appearance of political independence. Moreover, the ban on militant groups, some of them protagonists of the AGM (the Zapatistas, for instance), enables participation from NGOs seeking to avoid contact with more confrontational groups for fear of compromising their con- tacts with donors, state officials, and church groups. It also maintains the WSF’s eligibility for funding from such organizations. In an inter- view with OpenDemocracy, for example, Ford Foundation Program Officer Lisa Jordan (2004) stated that continued funding of the WSF would be contingent upon its effectiveness in facilitating public dis- course instead of protest and violence: “Whether or not the forum is the best way to get public voices engaged in global debates in a way that is not to do with violence and is much more than protest.” Other WSF funders, such as Christian Aid, Action Aid, and Save the Children, have publicly committed themselves to nonviolent methods and participants like Amnesty International will only work with political actors with a stated commitment in its media campaigns to nonviolence (Keck and Sikkink, 1998:15).
Emphasizing the freedom of the WSF open space, Whitaker char- acterized it as a “free space” that required little commitment on the part of WSF participants who could come and go as they desire and “maintain [their] freedom to choose the sector or the level in which to act.” According to Whitaker (2005), their involvement or “action” could “be either very wide and comprehensive or rather restricted; it might intend to address either the deeper causes of the problems the world faces or the superficial effects of those problems.” For many NGOs, like Oxfam or Save the Children, this noncommittal charac- ter has allowed them to use the Forum to establish business contacts and wage media campaigns, without adopting its antineoliberal pro- ject. The tendency toward an “NGO take-over” became increasingly apparent in the 2004 WSF India, but it mushroomed in Kenya in 2007 when well-funded NGOs paying high admission fees occupied the inner arena of the WSF while local Kenyans could not afford entry.
Social Democratic Ngos and the Wsf Open Space
In his critique of contemporary liberal society, Jürgen Habermas (1991) points out that democracy, and the system through which private individuals and interests regulate public authority, had been weakened by the way in which the major spheres of social life—the market, the state, and civic organizations—were overrun by mass consumption and strategic (“instrumental”) rationality. Habermas identified bourgeois civil society as a pseudo-public, marked by a level of cultural consumption and manufactured consent that pre- cluded critical reflection. Alternatively, he sought to reconstitute a public sphere to mediate between society and the state—a domain in which people could organize, formulate public opinion, and collec- tively express their desires to government officials. In his later work, Habermas (1984) continued in this vein, asserting a theory of commu- nicative action in which consensus and mutual understanding could be arrived at through universal procedures—a “discourse ethic” that enabled communication, unrestrained by market pressures and state coercion, and transparency at the level of public life that precluded domination by particular interests. He advocated a deliberative form of democracy within a public sphere that did not favor any one histor- ical subject, but rather, privileged the communicative process itself, locating political freedom in collective decision-making processes within a civil society independent of state and market interests.
Social democratic NGOs, some original founders of the WSF, con- ceived of the Forum as a renewal of an independent public sphere,
beyond the realm of protest and toward the development of social and political alternatives to neoliberal globalization. Well-known spokes- persons like Susan George, Walden Bello, and Ignacio Ramonet publicly supported this view in hopes that the WSF could pressure governments in the developing world, as well as in Europe and the United States, to scale back on neoliberal reforms. Unlike mainstream liberal democratic NGOs, progressive social democratic organiza- tions in general tend to argue for the development of state-run social welfare programs and seek to strengthen civil society as a check on multinationals, states, and supranational institutions like the IMF and WTO.
ATTAC, for example, was spurred by the financial crisis in Asia, when the currencies of Thailand, Indonesia, and South Korea were significantly devalued and the debt doubled. The organization sought to use the Tobin Tax to temper such speculative activity and generate funds for social welfare. More generally, it aimed to establish global rules for financial transactions to limit the power of the world’s financial elite (Van Daele, 2004; Moberg, 2001). ATTAC’s pro- and antiglobalization political strategy seeks to reinforce the sovereignty of nation-states undercut by supranational institutions and trade agreements. At the same time, it identifies itself as an “international movement for democratic control of financial markets and their insti- tutions” and operates as a network without hierarchical structures or a central location, although France is its stronghold and there are spokespersons and leaders. ATTAC enjoys a large support base among grassroots NGOs and movements, not only in France, but also in at least 40 other countries. As of 2001, ATTAC had roughly 30,000 supporters all over France and had produced roughly 190 ATTACs in other countries, including Brazil, Italy, Hungary, and Germany, which houses the second largest ATTAC. In many countries, the organization has significant ties to national governments and main- stream political processes (ATTAC, 2006). Michael Hardt (2002) has described ATTAC as “a hybrid organization whose head, especially in France, mingles with traditional politicians, whereas its feet are firmly grounded in the movements.” Others highlight ATTAC’s ties to the social democratic French Parti Socialiste, but characterize it as “neocorporatist,” pointing out how ATTAC’s political program advocates for a Europe controlled by businesses, local governments, and NGOs, many of which would benefit significantly from the Tobin Tax (Treanor, 2002). Prior to the 2002 French presidential elections, Susan George explained that while the network does not operate
as a political party, it does engage in political lobby efforts, some- times contentiously, with politicians and unions (George, 2002).
Peter Evans (2005) described ATTAC as one of the “paragons of organizations explicitly designed to build omnibus transnational net- works aimed at transforming neo-liberal globalization into a social protection-oriented, market-subordinating, difference-respecting mir- ror image.” He asserted, however, that ATTAC was “doomed to obscu- rity” because of the limits of its strategy and because its France itself is “an archetypically ‘anti-globalization’ political milieu.” He describes ATTAC’s strategy as one of “embedded liberalism” because it involves the regulatory power and protective functions of the state, but rejects bureaucratic control of public decision making for participatory struc- tures (ibid.). For Richard Falk (2004), such forms of “civic globaliza- tion” are crucial to opposing the advance of neoliberalism because they engage with market actors in struggles over “the soul of the state.” The issue, he contends, “is whether the state continues to be predominantly instrumentalized by and responsive to market forces or manages to be socially reempowered through the agency of transnational activism as reinforced by social democratic elites ” He suggests, “if the state is
reempowered, there would exist a renewed regulatory relationship of governance structures and processes to the market and a shift away from rigid adherence to the policy postulates of neoliberalism.”
Social democratic NGOs have been widely criticized in the WSF, albeit to a lesser degree than that of liberals, for their political orga- nizational style and identification as constituents of “civil society.” Taking their cues from Marx and Gramsci (or, for some, Bakunin and Bookchin), anticapitalist groups eschew use of the term “civil society” because for them, it “erases the borders between ‘exploiters and the exploited, the bosses and the workers, the oppressors and oppressed’ ”—groups whose interests “are in fact contradictory and diametrically opposed” (Brazilian Trade Unionists, 2002). During WSF 2002, for example, a large coalition of Brazilian trade union- ists widely disseminated an open letter2 chastising the WSF for its civil society identity. They contended that “the politics of civil soci- ety obscure class differences that are critical to understanding the mechanisms underlying global capitalism and how it can be opposed.” Citing the World Bank’s World Development Report in 2000/2001 as evidence, they argued that the World Bank uses the rubric of “civil society” to alleviate conflict with opposition groups. In the report, the World Bank recommended that financial institutions “develop an open and regular dialogue with the organizations of civil society,
in particular those that represent the poor . . . Social fragmentation can be mitigated by bringing groups together in formal and informal forums and channeling their energies into political processes instead of open conflict.” The trade unionists also cited NGOs’ role in sub- verting workers’ ability to secure basic occupational rights by pro- moting “volunteerism and other forms of precarious and unregulated labor.” They asked: “Don’t all the jobs ‘created’ by the NGOs, in fact, replace jobs in the public enterprises and services, in line with the policies implemented by [Brazilian President] Fernando Henrique Cardoso at the behest of the IMF?” (ibid.).
Other critics, including anticapitalist political party members, argue that social democratic NGOs are beholden to moderate polit- ical agendas by warrant of their political relationships. They see the role of institutions like the WSF as informing and influencing states and corporate enterprises, but not as posing fundamental challenges to capitalism as a whole. Because they occupy leadership positions in WSF committees and have access to mainstream and progressive media, they are empowered to push forth their particular vision of social change without taking into account the political values and con- tributions of the more radical movements and individuals that politi- cally charged the WSF in its early years. Anarchist Andrej Grubacic described this difference in terms of “globalization from the middle” versus “globalization from below.”
Anarchists and autonomists offer an alternative critique of liberal and social democratic conceptions of civil society operative in the WSF. Some follow Foucault and theorize a collapse of political and civil soci- ety vis-à-vis governmentality,3 the art of government that prefigures individuals, orients their conduct, and produces disciplined, normal- ized subjects through social institutions like schools and the family. Others cite Deleuze’s society of control,4 in which the state is theorized as both everywhere and nowhere. Rather than disciplining subjects through institutional mediations, Deleuze identified such institutions, like the family, the church, and the trade union, as no longer rele- vant central devices of domination and resistance against it. Control involved a pervasive logic (of capitalist production) that extended beyond institutional mediations into the whole of social space.
* * *
Given their relationship to both states and social movements, both lib- eral and social democratic NGOs are in a unique position to influence
public policy within states and among international institutions like the UN and World Bank. Most progressive NGOs seek to bolster social programs and political influence within legal structures and the electoral sphere, and while some, like ATTAC, side with social movements in demanding transparency and increased accountabil- ity from corporate and state actors, others alienate social movements in their pursuit of political influence. During the 2001 UN World Conference against Racism in South Africa, for example, the Durban Social Forum (DSF), comprised primarily of community activists from poor neighborhoods like Chatsworth and Soweto, protested not only the main event, but also the concurrent NGO Forum, for exclud- ing grassroots activists from their meeting and failing to acknowledge the effects of privatization on their communities. Drawing from the WSF experience in Porto Alegre, they appropriated the title “Social Forum” to emphasize the open, grassroots nature of their assembly, counterpoised to the exclusivity of the UN and NGO meetings. In the upcoming chapters, contests among NGOs and WSF organizers over the meanings of “social forum” and “open space” will be situated within the broader context of NGOs’ relationships to other groups in the WSF and on the left more generally, including those involved in anarchist and autonomist social movements and political party actors.
4. Antiauthoritarian Social Movements
After the smashing of the Niketown and Starbuck’s windows at the Seattle protests against the WTO in November 1999, the mainstream press marveled at the appearance of a seemingly new generation of “anarchist” protesters. Time Magazine journalist Michael Krantz (1999) wrote about “How Organized Anarchists Led Seattle into Chaos” to gripe about the young vandals and express his awe at how well-organized they seemed to be: “The anarchist movement today is a sprawling welter of thousands of mostly young activists populating hundreds of mostly tiny splinter groups espousing dozens of mostly socialist critiques of the capitalist machine. Ironically, the groups are increasingly organized . . .” Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, and various other mainstream newspapers and magazines later derided these same activists as young, violent, destructive, politically incoher- ent, and terrorist.
The Alternative Globalization Moment (AGM) was composed of an infinitely diverse array of social and political actors, but anarchists attracted the most attention outside the movement, especially in the United States. Police and mainstream media identified anarchists with the “black bloc,” whose dramatic appearance and unconven- tional tactics appeared as something new and threatening. Within the movement, however, anarchism inspired a much broader array of activists. As Barbara Epstein (2001) commented, “(m)any among today’s young radical activists, especially those at the center of the anti-globalization and anti-corporate movements, call themselves anarchists . . . anarchism is the dominant perspective within the move- ment.” While Epstein perhaps inappropriately assigns the label “anar- chist” to a politically heterogeneous set of actors, her instinct is not entirely wrong. Many of the activists in the AGM, for example, do
not identify directly with anarchism per se, but operate according to many of the core principles and organizational dynamics that charac- terize anarchist praxis, including decentralized organization, volun- tary association, mutual aid, direct action, and a general rejection of the idea that a movement’s goals could justify authoritarian methods for achieving them. As David Graeber (2002) commented,
The very notion of direct action, with its rejection of a politics which appeals to governments to modify their behaviour, in favour of physi- cal intervention against state power in a form that itself prefigures an alternative—all of this emerges directly from the libertarian tradition. Anarchism is the heart of the movement, its soul; the source of most of what’s new and hopeful about it.
Alongside anarchists, other prominent groups in the AGM, like the Italian tute bianche (white overalls), cited autonomist Marxism as their primary influence. In the opening pages of Storming Heaven, Steven Wright (2002) describes the influence of autonomism on the “upsurge of antistatist politics” associated with the AGM: “If much of this resurgence can rightly be claimed by various anarchist ten- dencies, autonomist Marxism has also encountered renewed interest of late” (1). This renewed interest is based in large part on anarchist and autonomist movements’ common emphasis on building alterna- tive forms of sociality outside electoral, state, and other forms of con- ventional politics and cultural practice. While some of these groups seek to literally “smash the state,” as well as the corporation, school, and other agents of social control, others remain committed to move- ment building and challenging illegitimate forms of authority that deflect power away from everyday people (Graeber and Grubacic, 2004). Many autonomists and anarchists believe that radical change, and ultimately, freedom and the good life, can be discovered through direct action (protests, but also various forms of “squatting”) and the development of cooperative projects and countercultural communi- ties, and not through the realization of a predetermined revolutionary moment or participation in electoral processes abstracted from the conditions of everyday life. They distinguish themselves from other groups in the WSF, and the left more generally, by linking their anti- statism with an anticapitalist critique of the ways in which exploi- tation and the logic of state sovereignty have permeated all levels of social life. They tend to be critical of large-scale NGOs that want the Forum to remain a neutral and apolitical space, as well as social
democratic groups that seek to bolster social programs and politi- cal influence within legal structures and the electoral sphere. While social democrats conceive of the WSF as a renewed public sphere that could function as a check on market actors, antiauthoritarians argue for more systemic change, inspired by the successes of the AGM in challenging neoliberal institutions, like the World Bank, from the streets. Member of the PGA and Assemblies movement in Argentina, Ezekiel Adamovsky (2003) described the rift among groups in the AGM and WSF as follows: “on the one hand, there’s the approach of most NGOs that want to reinforce the role of civil society as a check on the power of corporations to restore the balance that society has lost, and make capitalism more humane.” On the other hand are movements that seek to “strengthen the antagonistic movement against capitalism, to fight this society and build a new one.”
Anarchist Political Organization
Born in Europe in the mid-1800s, anarchism as a political strategy has varied in its relevance in the landscape of left politics both in the United States and beyond. In the 1930s, for example, anarchism took a backseat to Communist Party and trade union politics and the industrial and unemployed workers’ movements that empowered them. Thirty years later, it emerged in the context of the 1960s coun- terculture, which was critical not only of the state, but also of most other forms of authority. While the mainstream civil rights move- ment focused primarily on juridical solutions to racial inequality, anarchists made strange bedfellows with Christian civil rights activ- ists concerned with organizational ethics and direct action. In the throes of the Cold War, they also found kindred spirits among radical feminists and student groups characterized by their rejection of cen- tralized and bureaucratic organization. The activists of 1960s were critical not only of capitalism, but also the patriarchal state and all forms of authority, overregulation, and social control (see Willis, 1992; Haraway, 1991; Rupp and Taylor, 1999). Into the 1970s, the anti-Vietnam movement produced a mix of militants also critical of Old Left bureaucracy—factions of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), for instance—and while the antinuclear power movements in the United States and Europe featured affinity groups and consensus decision making popular among today’s anarchists, they also gave birth to punk, which resisted the cultural consensus of the conserva- tive 1980s on the level of style.
As countless theorists have pointed out, it is nearly impossible to present a single theory of anarchism. Not only are there multiple strands—anarcho-syndicalism, primitivism, mysticism, communist anarchism, libertarian socialism, and so on—but anarchism itself gen- erally eschews the very idea of formulating (for them, imposing) a gen- eral, all-encompassing theory to explain social phenomena, especially revolution and social change. Anarchism is perhaps better understood by its methods and principles, rather than through a single, unified the- ory or political strategy (Grubacic, 2006; Chomsky, 2005:18; Graeber, 2004b; Neal, 1997). Because of the lack of a unified theory, anarchism is often criticized as aimless, formless, and strategically unrealistic in advanced capitalist societies marked by deep consumerism and acute political hierarchy. Advocates point out, however, that it is precisely within technologically advanced societies that decentralized, nonhierar- chical, and radically democratic forms of organization can occur, even on a global scale (Chomsky, 2005; Aronowitz and DiFazio, 1994).
Anarchism may resist submission to a general theory, but it does not lack an organizational perspective. Historically, anarchist orga- nizations have ranged from small affinity groups and decentralized communities to large-scale movements and networks. The origins of affinity group praxis can be traced back to the 1930s with the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI), anarcho-syndicalists working inside the National Confederation of Labor (CNT) trade union that organized a mass movement of several thousands. In more contemporary set- tings, affinity groups were used in the 1970s antinuclear power cam- paigns in Germany and the United States (Starhawk, 2008), and more recently, among groups at the anti-G8, WTO, and World Bank pro- tests associated with the AGM (Alach, 2008).
The affinity groups in the U.S. AGMs were comprised of roughly 5–15 people, with an agreed upon commitment of mutual support. The extent of the commitment within groups could vary widely: some con- verged specifically for demonstrations, direct actions, and other politi- cal activity, whereas others connected more regularly in the spheres of daily life, such as the university or high school, community, and work settings. In addition to providing mutual support, they shared common political views or interests that served as a basis for their collective affinity. Trust and political compatibility were the glue that held many of these groups together, especially in vulnerable protest situations as well as the spaces of the every day. Ironically, affinity groups that func- tion more like support groups have also been established in corporate and other kinds of institutional settings, including Eli Lilly as well as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (Forsythe, 2004).
Lifestyle Versus Social Anarchism
Despite the importance of organization to many anarchists, the pub- lic perception of them as individualist and nihilistic is not entirely unfounded; it is, however, widely misunderstood. Anarchist individ- ualism is often associated with “lifestyle anarchism,” which has its roots in the egoism of Max Stirner. Stirner was by no means a nihil- ist, but he did argue for the primacy of self-determination and self- mastery over the demands and obligations of social life, including those associated with friends and family. Among anarchists, lifesty- lers are often counterposed, albeit tenuously, to “social anarchists” who advocate for an antiauthoritarianism or statelessness rooted in the thought of Michael Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin, both of whom identified as socialists.
In his critique of lifestyle anarchism, Murray Bookchin (1995) traced the development of lifestylism from Stirner to nineteenth- century bohemians, who, he asserted, selfishly romanticized their alienation from mainstream society, expressed through “outrageous” clothing and “aberrant” lifestyles. He also pointed to more contem- porary examples of lifestylism, including Hakim Bey’s well-known essay on Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZs), in which Bey extols the virtues of “autonomous” spaces for release and self-actualization, off the grid of social control. TAZs are spaces that enable one to live authentically, release his or her self from past and future, and experience moments of freedom in the present. They offer a posi- tive experience of individual freedom and operate as a counterforce against the intrusion of state and market in the subjective realm (Bey, 1991). Bey’s TAZs is said to have influenced the development of the wildly popular Burning Man festival, which eventually became co- opted by commercial enterprises, as well as seemingly spontaneous “flash mobs,” in which groups of mostly strangers engage in non- sensical concerted actions, such as meeting in public places dressed in silly outfits or freezing like statues at an agreed upon moment in frequently traveled venues like New York’s Grand Central Station or shopping malls. Despite the popularity of these experiences, Bookchin (1995) discredits Bey’s work as “an insurrection lived in the imagination of a juvenile brain, a safe retreat into unreality” that ignores “the basic social relationships of capitalist exploitation and domination . . . overshadowed by metaphysical generalizations about the ego and la technique, blurring public insight into the basic causes of social and ecological crises—commodity relations that spawn the corporate brokers of power, industry, and wealth.”
Similar to bohemianism, the punk subculture in Britain and the United States in the late 1970s and 1980s has also been categorized as part of the lifestyle tradition. In the throes of the Reagan-Thatcher era, punks used the anarchist symbol—an “A” within a circle around it—to signify their penchant for chaos and refusal of authority, but also for its shock value. Some groups, like The Clash, exhibited strong Marxist tendencies, others like the Sex Pistols openly referred to them- selves as anarchists in songs like “Anarchy in the UK,” which dis- played a more nihilistic tendency: “When there’s no future, how can there be sin? We’re the flowers in the dustbin. We’re the poison in your human machine. We’re the future, your future” (Sex Pistols, 1977). Others, such as Crass, reflected a more “social” anarchist disposition. Crass criticized groups like The Clash and Sex Pistols for selling out to record labels and producers and becoming part of what they called the “pop machine.” They were also critical of Oi! and Chaos punks’ machismo and produced an album—Penis Envy—entirely dedicated to radical feminism. The band’s anticapitalist project also involved selling records at low process, playing free shows and benefits (their last show was a benefit for striking miners), and engaging in acts of sabotage, such as spray-painting over advertisements in subway stations (Appleford, 2005).
While “punk” was anything but homogeneous, it did involve a radical and defiant “Do It Yourself” culture that fused lifestylism with social activism. Punks created their own music, clothing stores, record labels, and presses outside the mainstream. In this regard, it constituted a distinct form of revolt and refusal that played out on (and disrupted) the landscape of culture and style. In doing so, it gave voice to significant numbers of young people disillusioned with the status quo and the authority structures that supported it. In his effort to recover a political project for anarchism, Bookchin ignores how punk and bohemianism operated as social formations that exercised their power through the collective resistance of authority structures manifest in cultural norms and values. Punks’ challenge to author- ity hinged on what Dick Hebdige called their “power to disfigure.” Mainstream fashion, music, and behavioral norms were not only refused, they were actively and publicly violated. Moreover, punk sig- nified a breakdown in the very idea of consensus. Because its refusal was motivated by desires for freedom and disgust for the status quo, and not relative deprivation, punks’ resistance cut across class bound- aries, disrupting typical categories of social and political representa- tion altogether (Hebdige, 1979:5–22). Punks’ disdain for authority
and the legacy of the 1960s and early 1970s manifest in a seeming nihilism that was really about highlighting social problems they faced as a generation, including the steep decline in and betrayal of trade unionism, the death of working-class culture, lack of future job pros- pects for young people, and failure of a once vibrant left to pose a significant challenge to the hegemony of the conservative right.
The distinction between lifestyle and social anarchism becomes even muddier when considering tactical issues, a subject that has won anarchists a great deal of media attention and considerable trouble and controversy. In the post-9/11 United States, for example, police began labeling property destruction as a terrorist act, justifying preemptive searches and other infringements on activists’ civil liberties (Starr, 2006:61). Even before 9/11, property destruction by anarchists and other groups was punished severely. In 2001, for example, 22-year-old Jeffrey Luers was sentenced to over 22 years in prison for torching SUVs and attempted arson of an empty oil tanker. Years later, Stanislas Meyerhoff was sentenced to 13 years for setting fire to a Eugene police substation, SUV dealership, tree farm, and a ski resort in Vail, Colorado. During the hearing, the presiding judge told Meyerhoff: “It was your intent to scare and frighten other people through a very dan- gerous and psychological act Your actions included elements of ter-
rorism to achieve your goal” (Bernard, 2007). Anarchists, especially those from Eugene, Oregon, were also held responsible for the wide- spread property damage in Seattle, even though people from other areas and political backgrounds were involved. Activist formations like the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) have been targeted by the FBI and named “ecoterrorists,” even though ELF is really just a marker for any group or individual ecoactivist (Earth Liberation Front, 2009).
Since these activists claim to be motivated by concern for the environment and go to great lengths to ensure that their actions do not harm and threaten human and animal life, it is inaccurate to characterize them as nihilistic or terroristic, as compared to anar- chists like “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski1 or Alexander Berkman.2 According to Avery Starr, sabotage, as a tactic, focuses on “disrup- tion when other options appear ineffective or impossible,” and is not aimed at inflicting violence, especially on people. For groups like the Animal Liberation Front and ELF, the term ecotage has been used to describe a brand of self-defense (the defense of animals and the environment) that aims to “move beyond” civil disobedi- ence but remain nonviolent. As Starr (2006) points out, while such tactics have become controversial for today’s militants, sabotage has
been used by progressive movements throughout history, from labor struggles in the late nineteenth century to the antiapartheid move- ment in South Africa and antinuclear power activity in Germany and elsewhere (64–65).
In the context of the AGM protests, some socially oriented anar- chists decided to forego property destruction or direct confronta- tion with police because they did not want to endanger other groups. During the 2002 anti-WEF demonstrations in New York, for example, anarchists engaged in “snake marches” (roving, unsanctioned marches) away from the main demonstration so as to not attract police brutal- ity. On a broader scale, AGM activists have accommodated the diver- sity of tactics among their constituents through the practice of zoning protest territories according to levels of risk: (1) “green” zones did not involve risk of arrest or police attack; (2) “yellow” were reserved for civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action; and (3) “red” included more confrontational tactics, such as property destruction. Red zones tended to be positioned in close proximity to meeting sites and police lines (Starr, 2006:67). The zone structure was used in protests around the world, but at events like the anti-FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) in Quebec City or the anti-G8 in Genoa, the sheer volume of tear gas in the air, unruly nature of the events, and excessive police force made it difficult, if not impossible, for such lines to be maintained.
Despite efforts to embrace an array of tactics, the black bloc remained an ongoing subject of controversy within the AGM, espe- cially among activists from liberal democratic NGOs, pacifists, and those associated with political parties and state officials. Some activ- ists of color derided their actions as symptomatic of race and class privilege (Starr, 2006) and others chastised them for escalating police violence and rendering fellow protesters vulnerable to attack, assert- ing that the black bloc “discredits the movement as a whole and that tactics should be decided democratically, not by small groups acting autonomously” (Epstein, 2001). The black bloc was also scrutinized by people in and outside the movement for the increased police pres- ence they tended to attract during protest events, which, their critics contended, diverted public funds away from much needed social ser- vices. Perhaps the most serious criticism, however, was waged after the anti-G8 protests in Genoa when Italian police installed under- cover officers and neofascists into the demonstration, and, posing as black bloc protesters, vandalized cars and small businesses to foster a poor public image of the AGM protesters and exacerbate divisions among them (Graeber, 2001; The Guardian, 2008). It worked: Many
people in the movement scorned the black bloc for their rogue tac- tics, which, they asserted, made it difficult to differentiate them from police provocateurs, endangered masses of people, and undermined the efforts of those more interested in large-scale civil disobedience than in guerilla tactics or property destruction. In an interview with Il Manifesto, for example, tute bianche spokesperson Luca Casarini criticized the black bloc at Genoa, asserting “They’re people who believe that all it takes to strike at capitalism is to break a shop window . . . We think differently. We believe in a process of social transformation” (Shawki, 2001).
Contrary to popular belief, the black bloc is not a particular group or organization; it is a tactic that is said to have originated with the European autonomist and militant squatter youth (Autonomen) in the 1980s who were distinguished by their all black clothing and masks (Katsiaficas, 2006:177). Black blocs are not necessarily composed of people who identify as “anarchist,” although their methods may reflect anarchist principles. At AGM protests in the United States, for example, they tended to operate in “free association,” converging only temporarily for particular events or actions and organizing nonhier- archically. Even when they did not agree on tactics at a given moment, there was a strong culture of tolerance and autonomy: each member was free to decide how and when to participate. It is important to note, however, that the constitution of black blocs changes with each action and venue. Sometimes they increase the visibility of protests and provoke more direct confrontation with police and or meeting delegates. Other times, they participate in main marches or protect them from police attack. At anti-Iraq and Afghanistan war marches in the United States, they participated in legally sanctioned marches, and in some cases, heightened tensions by burning effigies or dramat- ically breaking out of central marches in packs to rove the city. At the “A16” (April 16) protest in Washington, DC, against the World Bank and IMF, members of the black bloc served as a buffer from police; at the World Bank and IMF summit in Prague in September 2000, they threw stones at the cops and were generally more confrontational. In Quebec City, they played a central role in breaching the large security wall around the meeting site, winning favor from other protesters (Starr, 2006:67). According to David Graeber (2002), “The spectacle of the Black Bloc [in Quebec], armed with wire cutters and grappling hooks, joined by everyone from Steelworkers to Mohawk warriors to tear down the wall, became—for that very reason—one of the most powerful moments in the movement’s history.”
While protest tactics among lifestyle and social anarchists may not serve as reliable markers of their differences, perhaps a clearer distinc- tion can be established by looking at how each conceptualizes, and attempts to operationalize, freedom and autonomy. Lifestyle anar- chists emphasize spontaneity, temporariness, and the production of an underground, subversive existence, against the fixed boundaries of conventional life. Anarcho-primitivists, for example, call for a return to the wild (“rewilding”) to recapture the freedom of nature, outside a market-dominated life, mediated by technological developments and civilizing processes. They tend to focus on personal freedom and escape as a solution to society’s ills, rather than understanding free- dom as a collective construct. Sean Penn’s 2007 film Into the Wild depicts a diluted version of such primitivism through life and death of Christopher McCandless, a young college graduate influenced by the work of Tolstoy and Thoreau, who rejected his middle-class life to “rewild” in the Alaskan forest.
In contrast to anarchists interested in building a life at the mar- gins, social anarchists engage in movement building, community out- reach, and collective forms of resistance, though many of them also enjoy unconventional lifestyles and live in squatter communities or other kinds of cooperative housing arrangements. Unlike primitiv- ists, they laud technological inventions like the Internet because it facilitates cooperation and interconnection (Bookchin, 1969). Social anarchists participate in the WSF as a way to build relationships with other movement actors, including nonanarchists, whereas lifestylers are more likely to get involved in small group direct actions or retreat entirely into a life underground.
Many activists in the AGM and WSF, including anarchists, cite the Italian Autonomia Operaia (Worker’s Autonomy) movement of the 1970s as a significant influence. Worker’s Autonomy has its roots in operiasmo, or workerism, which was a central force in the development of the Italian Left from the 1950s to the end of the 1970s. Workerism emerged from Italian Communist Party (PCI) and Socialist Party critics like Raniero Panzieri and others, who sought to rethink Marxism amidst a fledging, post–World War II Italian economy that, within the span of the decade, would experience intense industrialization and economic growth. Workerism’s specificity lay in its focus on “the real factory,” rather than building political programs based on abstract analyses of
capitalism. As Steven Wright (2002) put it, “The most peculiar aspect of Italian workerism . . . was to be the importance it placed upon the relationship between the material structure of the working class, and its behavior as a subject autonomous from the dictates of both the labor movement and capital” (3, 6). For workerists, autonomy meant that class struggle would occur autonomously from the circulation of capi- tal, but also that it would not be led by traditional organizations of the left, such as the PCI or the country’s national trade union, the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) (Katsiaficas, 2006:7). In its early years, however, workerism would maintain an ambiguous rela- tionship to the PCI and CGIL; some supported PCI and union involve- ment in worker organization, while others rejected them vehemently as agents of compromise. Following the war, Italian workers were mak- ing substantial gains in and outside the factory—from improvements in working conditions to “freezes upon both layoffs and the price of bread”—but Italy’s industrializing process required a docile labor force, and the PCI, with its newfound political power, would more than once sell out its worker base for political gain (Wright, 2002: 7, 9).
A key figure in the development of workerist thought, Panzieri emphasized the importance of self-critique and interrogation and a “refusal of party-specificity,” seeking to return to workers themselves as a source of revolutionary struggle, rather than a revisionist party or abstract theoretical framework. For Panzieri, Marxist intellectuals should be directly involved in worker struggles and conduct socio- logical “worker’s enquiries” in order to understand the needs and experiences of Italy’s factory workers. Another distinctive character- istic of workerism in the early period was its emphasis on the work- ing class as an engine of capitalist production. Renowned workerist Mario Tronti theorized the antagonistic power arrangements that constituted capitalist production, positioning labor as a critical force within the logic of capital and observing the ways in which workers’ resistance repeatedly forced capital to adjust and redefine itself—to reload. For Tronti, a revolutionary, anticapitalist project would involve breaking this relationship through a refusal of work. Other workerists during this period advocated for worker control over the factory (self-management) rather than a breaking of the fundamen- tal power relationship between capital and labor outlined by Tronti (1972; Wright, 2002:16–21, 37–39).
The “Hot Autumn” of 1969 would mark a sea change in the devel- opment of Italian autonomism, as hundreds of thousands of work- ers protested in the streets, occupied factories, and committed acts
of sabotage in them (Katsiaficas, 2006:18). In addition to playing a central role in the autonomous labor movement, workerists built alli- ances with other social subjects, including students, feminists, the unemployed, and migrant and technical workers, as many of them were becoming key protagonists in the Italian scene. Debates over the role of students in and outside the university permeated worker- ist debates, alongside the ongoing controversies over unions and the PCI (ibid. 18). Actions like the “go-slow” and other acts of sabotage on the shop floor circumvented union and party involvement, further dividing the traditional left from the autonomists, while broadening the latter’s movement base (Wright, 2002:118–119).
In the mid-1970s, autonomist activity took the form of various acts of “self-reduction” in which people all over the country refused price increases on public transportation, electricity, and phone services, signifying yet another wave of activism that did not involve unions or the PCI. Nor were these acts of resistance limited to workers. Self- reduction was accompanied by a surge in squat activity by university and high school students, which set the stage for Italy’s vibrant social center movement (Wright, 2002:172; Katsiaficas, 2006:22). Although the move was certainly not unanimous, workerist theorists made a conceptual shift from the “mass worker” to the “socialized worker,” which reflected the infusion of these new social subjects in the horizon of contention. While the concept of the mass worker focused on the factory, the socialized worker included those whose productive activi- ties were performed in the realm of social reproduction as much of the grassroots resistance associated with the Hot Autumn and again, in the mid-1970s, were led by women, young people, and neighborhood committees, acting autonomously from formal political institutions.
While workerists contributed a great deal to the development of Italian autonomism, the women’s movement also played an integral role. Feminists focused on transformation in the realm of everyday life and politicization of seemingly personal issues, like divorce and abor- tion, seeking to construct autonomous spaces for women and challenge the machismo of the traditional and workerist left. Feminists of all stripes founded their own abortion clinics, shelters for victims of rape and domestic violence, and formed consciousness-raising groups to deal with issues specifically related to patriarchy and its manifestations in the lives of women. Feminists like Mariarosa Dalla Costa argued for recognition of women’s work in the household as unpaid labor— wages for housework—while others, such as Alisa del Re, suggested a refusal of housework because it ran the risk of relegating women to the
home, rather than liberating them (Katsiaficas, 2006:27–33). Students also played an important role in the development of autonomism in the late 1960s and 1970s. They criticized government cutbacks, fought neofascist groups and politicians, and occupied universities and squat houses. The Metropolitan Indians (MI) represented one of the more creative elements of the student movement, operating through affinity- based collectives rather than traditional political organizations. The MI argued against the military industrial complex and animal cruelty and for the legalization of drugs. In the spirit of self-reduction, they refused to pay for bus services and housing, as well as cultural commodities like films and records. The MI and other student groups forged alli- ances with the workerists, but remained uniquely countercultural in their expression.
Deeply influenced by the events in Italy and the vitality of its move- ments, the Autonomen in Germany emerged from a confluence of tendencies, including the feminist and antinuclear power movements, as well as punk and squatter subcultures. Feminists in Germany tack- led many of the same issues as their Italian counterparts, including divorce, abortion, and domestic violence. Moreover, they defined autonomy in nonpatriarchal terms, as personal autonomy, and focused on facilitating an existence that was not defined in relation to men. To that end, feminist autonomy involved establishing women’s institutions—shelters for victims of domestic violence and women’s social centers—as spaces strictly for and by women. It also involved applying their concept of personal autonomy to the problem of orga- nization: feminist organizations eschewed hierarchy, operated with- out defined leadership or charismatic figures, and did not depend on existing party structures (Katsiaficas, 2006:74–75).
The organizational structures and ethics that characterized femi- nist autonomy prefigured the Autonomen’s rejection of defined lead- ership, hierarchy, and centralism. Rather than involve spokespersons, Autonomen speakers would go so far as to sit in trucks or wear masks to conceal their identity at protest events. Their decentralized, amor- phous character not only protected them from police infiltration, but more importantly, enabled them to remain free from divisive hierar- chies. Italian autonomism, on the other hand, continues to be marked by a culture of celebrity. Many of Autonomia’s leaders suffered severe repression, exile, and incarceration as a result of their conspicuous involvement. Even today, their spokespersons are targeted by neofas- cists and police and are steeped in legal battles associated with their civil and social disobedience.
Unlike the Italian Marxists, the Autonomen rejected the use of unifying theories of revolution and counterpower, but they did oper- ate according to loose sets of principles: They rejected the idea of a revolutionary party or vanguard, emphasized difference (what Katsiaficas has called “continuing differentiation”), and believed in self-determination in all aspects of life (9). Like Italian autonomists, they engaged in confrontational protest, counterculture, parody, and sabotage to fight gentrification, fascism, and the state’s increasing use of nuclear power, and they did so autonomously from traditional polit- ical parties. With the rise of neo-Nazism in the 1990s, Autonomen were crucial in waging an antifascist resistance by defending immi- grants and other “marginals” from attack, when police and the tra- ditional left had abandoned them. Despite such egalitarian efforts, however, the decentralized nature of Autonomen life left them vul- nerable to allegations of opportunism with regard to squatting, and to some, their practice of wearing all black appeared to encourage conformity among the ranks. More serious criticisms pointed to con- tradictions within the movement regarding the use of physical force against their adversaries, and cases of domestic violence against women in Autonomen squatter communities (ibid., 177–179).
Anarchist and Autonomist Principles
Like their Autonomen predecessors, social anarchists generally reject the idea of forming a centralized political organization, but they do tend to coalesce around three key political organizational principles: prefiguration, antiauthoritarianism, and anticapitalism. Prefiguration really embodies the latter two because it combines anarchists’ anti- capitalist and antiauthoritarian orientations into an overarching orga- nizational ethic that aims to balance their desires for freedom with problems of structure, coordination, and mediation. These anarchists believe that movements and their organizations in general should “prefigure” the political and social relations they seek to establish: “what different anarchist organizations have in common is that they are developed organically from below, not engineered into existence from above . . . They try to reflect as much as is humanly possible the liberated society they seek to achieve, not slavishly duplicate the pre- vailing system of hierarchy, class and authority” (Bookchin, 1969).
Prefiguration also references the temporal aspects of social change theorized by antiauthoritarian movements. Andrej Grubacic (2005b), for example, describes anarchism’s emphasis on prefiguration as “life
despite capitalism,” which includes constructing commons, autono- mous spaces, and other forms of sociality in the here and now, while foreshadowing what a “life after capitalism” would look like, and, theoretically, moving toward it. Concern for prefiguration was also present in classical Italian autonomism insofar as it refused party and union abstractions of workers’ lived experience. Their approach, how- ever, was also fraught with contradictions, including their machismo culture, ambiguous relationship to the PCI and CGIL, privileging of charismatic leaders and intellectuals, and lack of recognition of alter- native discourses of resistance, such as feminism (as antipatriarchal) or thirdworldism (Wright, 2002:113).
Hardt and Negri (2000, 2004) have since offered a new interpre- tation of contemporary struggles that more closely resembles that of anarchist praxis with regard to the ethic of prefiguration discussed in Grubacic’s work. In Multitude, for example, they posit a cotemporal- ity of resistance and organization that involves an ontological multi- tude “from the standpoint of eternity”—“throughout history humans have refused authority and command, expressed the irreducible dif- ference of singularity, and sought freedom in innumerable revolts and revolutions”—as well as a historical or “not-yet” multitude, which “will require a political project to bring it into being” (ibid.:221).
While the ethic of prefiguration lies somewhere between the two multitudes, Hardt and Negri’s (2000:207) emphasis on political orga- nization and claim that “Globalization must be met with counter- globalization” and “Empire, with a counter-Empire” has drawn criticism from anarchists. Richard Day, for example, has character- ized Empire as an expression of a hegemonic project that runs the risk of eating its own children. To Hardt and Negri’s question, “How can all this be organized? Or better, how can it adopt an organizational figure?” Day (2005) suggests an “anarchist” response:
you are posing yourself the wrong questions. “All of this” is always already organized, and your “we,” whatever that might be, cannot “give” it anything without destroying what it is. You must “be still, and wait without hope/for hope would be hope for the wrong thing.” That is, you must trust in non-unified, incoherent, non-hegemonic forces for social change, because hegemonic forces cannot produce anything that will look like change to you at all. (155)
Among anarchists like Day, the ethic of prefiguration runs counter to the notion that today’s movements must assimilate to existing power
structures in order to challenge them. Rather than attempt to obtain power (or develop a counterpower), many of today’s anarchists seek to diffuse it.
The second principle, antiauthoritarianism, generally refers to anarchism’s antistatist character, which dates back to Mikhail Bakunin in the nineteenth century. The state was at the center of anarchism’s break with Marxism, and Bakunin in particular warned of the dangers of a Marxist “red bureaucracy.” Marx theorized the transition from capitalist to communist society as involving a seizure of state power by the working class, but Bakunin rejected this idea citing “the true despotic and brutal nature of all states” (Bakunin, 1950). While Marxists viewed the state as an executive of the ruling class and asserted ruling class control over the means of production as the ultimate relation of oppression, anarchists saw the state as an autonomous entity with its own logic of domination (Mueller, 2003; Newman, 2004).
Even though Marx and Engels, and later, Lenin, theorized the proletarian state as a key transitional moment in history that would eventually “wither away,”3 anarchists claimed that the seizure of the state by the working class essentially boiled down to another form of tyranny, temporary or not. Moreover, for anarchists and autonomist Marxists, orthodox Marxism’s identification of the working class as a “universal class” has not translated well to the mid- to late twen- tieth and twenty-first centuries, in part because it ignores the ways in which disaffection and desires for change among women, young people, and racial, ethnic, and sexual minority groups, cut across traditional class boundaries. In his famous essay “Listen, Marxist!” Bookchin went so far as to assert that while Marxism may have been liberating a century ago, by the 1970s it had turned into a “strait- jacket.” According to Bookchin (1971), the working class had been “neutralized as the ‘agent of revolutionary change’ ” and class struggle suffered a “deadening fate by being co-opted into capitalism . . . Our enemies are not only the visibly entrenched bourgeoisie and the state apparatus but also an outlook which finds its support among liber- als, social democrats . . . [and] the ‘revolutionary’ parties of the past, and . . . the worker dominated by the factory hierarchy, by the indus- trial routine, and by the work ethic.”
Although anarchism is historically antistatist, many of today’s anarchists acknowledge that states can play an important role in pro- viding social welfare services and protections against the detrimen- tal effects of unregulated capitalism. Some, like Chomsky (2005),
assert that supporting the state sector in contemporary (neoliberal) societies, may even constitute a step toward its abolition (212–220). Instead of a universal rejection of the state, anarchist antiauthori- tarianism involves placing the burden of proof on existing author- ity structures and limiting or dismantling the power of institutions or individuals whose authority proves to be illegitimate (118–130; Graeber and Grubacic, 2004). While anarchists concede that states are oftentimes more well-equipped than grassroots movements to ensure a sound infrastructure and social welfare for ordinary peo- ple, they are critical of the system of coercion that undergirds state authority, which for them, ultimately limits its potential to serve as an agent of libratory change (Graeber, 2006). This anarchist critique of authority extends to other media of social control, including the family, educational systems, physical and mental health care facilities, as well as norms regarding sexuality, religion, and artistic expression (Chomsky, 2005:178).
This critique of authority and emphasis on the ubiquitous nature of control can also be found in the work of Hardt and Negri, who share anarchism’s penchant for postmodern thought, and Deleuze’s work in particular. Rather than disciplining subjects through institu- tional mediations, as Foucault4 would have, Deleuze identified such institutions as in-crisis: the family, church, and trade union were no longer relevant as central devices of domination, as control involved a pervasive logic of capitalist production that extended beyond insti- tutional mediations. Hardt and Negri apply Deleuze’s control soci- ety to discuss the new arrangements of sovereignty characteristic of the post–Cold War age of Empire, arguing that institutional media- tions had soured, civil society withered, and nation-states no longer operated as the uppermost apparatuses of power. Sovereignty—the power to impose order—rests in the hands of multinational corpora- tions and supranational institutions like the IMF and World Bank that trump the sovereignty of nation-states. Opposition to Empire is achieved via the multitude, a social multiplicity that acts in common, while maintaining differences among its constituents, rather than a homogenous class formation or other false unity. Multitude involves an understanding of the expansive nature of exploitation and con- trol in contemporary societies that, paradoxically, offers innumerable opportunities for resistance, not bound to social class, identity poli- tics, or national liberation (Hardt and Negri, 2004:92).
Autonomists like Katsiaficas have been critical of previous waves of autonomist theory, especially that associated with workerism, because
of its focus on labor and production at the expense of other categories of transformation. Katsiaficas has targeted Negri in particular, not only for his allegiance to Marxist categories of analysis, but also for his charismatic personal style. Katsiaficas notes that while Negri and his cohort played an important role in theorizing workers’ struggles beyond traditional, Old Left categories—to involve unpaid house- work and white-collar workers, for example—his work continues to provide only “a partial understanding of the universe of freedom.” For Katsiaficas (2006), Negri’s theoretical approach “constricts human beings and liberation within the process of production . . . patriarchy (and race) need to be understood in their own right, as autonomously existing, not simply as moments of capital . . . What occurs between men and women under the name of patriarchy is not the same as what happens between bosses/owners and workers” (223). Katsiaficas’ criticism is echoed by Steven Wright, who provides a more sympa- thetic account of Negri’s history as well as that of operiasmo. He too criticizes Italian autonomist Marxism’ tendency to flatten the real experiences of people into abstract categories and ignore impor- tant differences among them. He veers significantly from Katsiaficas, however, in that he situates such contributions within a highly vola- tile and revolutionary context in which movement protagonists like Negri could certainly be said to have had a tiger by the tail (Wright, 2002:224). Nonetheless, these criticisms bear strong resemblance to that of autonomist Marxism’s anarchist critics (Day, 2005; also see Graeber, 2008).
In terms of their anticapitalist orientation, anarchists and autono- mist Marxists share Marxism’s concern for social inequality and alien- ation as well as its emphasis on labor as an important concept through which to understand human history and potential. Autonomists, from Tronti to Hardt and Negri, have theorized the ways in which the exploitation they witnessed in the factory extended into the whole of social life. Italian autonomists’ concept of the “social factory,” for example, enabled them to move beyond traditional, reductionist con- cepts of class struggle and toward a theory of the ubiquitous nature of capitalist exploitation that included the recognition of women’s work in the household as a critical site of social reproduction. From the basis of these ideas emerged the concept of immaterial labor, that is, labor that helps define the creative (cultural, informational) content of commodities, standards of taste, and norms and public opinion, produced on a massive scale, and no longer strictly the domain of the ruling class. At the turn of the twentieth century, theorists of
immaterial labor have located an increased tendency toward intel- lectual and affective labor, even in occupations that were previously limited to manual tasks. Calling into question conceptions of labor (among workerists and other Marxists) as a force in dialectical rela- tion to the forces of capital, they characterize immaterial labor as immanently cooperative because its valorization may occur outside the capital relation: “Today productivity, wealth, and the creation of social surpluses take the form of cooperative interactivity through lin- guistic, communicational, and affective networks. In the expression of its own creative energies, immaterial labor thus seems to provide the potential for a kind of spontaneous and elementary communism” (Hardt and Negri, 2000:294). Day (2005) adds nuance to this analy- sis, pointing out that in addition to the increased intellectual aspect of even the most mundane physical jobs, such trends have also involved a routinization of artistic and intellectual production. He contends that Hardt and Negri may be overstating this increased intellectualization and its liberatory effects, however, since the information economy has also required its share of unskilled laborers performing mundane, backbreaking tasks (ibid.:146; also see Graeber, 2008).
Despite their differences, autonomist Marxists and anarchists alike oppose private property and argue for a direct reappropriation of resources by people and not through the state or any other mediations (Epstein, 2001). In this regard, their antiauthoritarianism and anti- capitalism are interrelated: anarchism insists on “democratic control over one’s life,” but it also advocates for social ownership of the means of production, a kind of “stateless socialism” (Chomsky, 2005). They use the term “mutual aid,” initially theorized by Kropotin, to refer to the voluntary exchange of goods and services for the mutual benefit of members of a given society. Contemporary autonomist groups (and some anarchists) and AGM activists employ a similar ethic in their attempts to reinvigorate commons, a concept that has its roots in the property sharing practices of medieval Europe, but generally refers to any resource that is (or should be) collectively shared. Against the dominant system of private property, commons are “forms of direct access to social wealth, access that is not mediated by competitive market relations” (DeAngelis, 2004). In keeping with the antiauthor- itarian ethos of anarchist and autonomist thought, “commons” is also used to reference coordinated, cooperative practices that are not directed by a central point of command nor from some “spontaneous harmony.” Naomi Klein has located a “reclaiming of the commons” in contemporary antiadvertising campaigns, street and subway raves,
open source software, and other forms of Internet pirating in which people trade commodities, like music and film, instead of buying them from multinational corporations (Klein, 2001a:50; Hardt and Negri, 2004:222).
While some of these practices are reminiscent of Bey’s TAZs in terms of their temporality and countercultural character, many anarchists and autonomists engage in antiprivatization efforts more in resistance to neoliberalism and corporate influence over social and cultural life than for the purposes of self-mastery or -aggrandizement. In the Italian context, for example, squatting and “self-reduction” in the 1960s and 1970s gave birth to the social center movement, comprised of hundreds of squats in various parts of the country, usually on the outskirts of urban areas or in industrial zones. The first wave of centers emerged amidst the shift from industrial to flexible forms of production that left vacant large stretches of cityscape in urban centers around the world. In Milan, industrial production gave way to an economy based on the finance, fashion, and service industries, which brought with them high rents and low wages, at least for those lucky enough to still have a job: between 1971 and 1989, 280,000 of the city’s workers joined the ranks of the unemployed (Mudu, 2004). By 2004, however, over 250 social centers had been active in Italy, ranging from large com- plexes like Rivolta in Marghera (outside of Venice) to small spaces in southern Italy, run by two or three people (ibid.). The first social center, Leoncavallo, was occupied in Milan in 1975, but like many centers, has been closed and reopened over the years due to police pressure.
Social centers involve a diverse array of social subjectivities, and Italy has a long history of geographic specificity with regard to its movement formations and their political legacies. Nonetheless, a com- mon thread among contemporary social centers is their desire and effort to take back what neoliberalism has taken away. To that end, social centers tend to offer an assortment of public services, includ- ing housing and documentation services for immigrants and homeless people, condom distribution for prostitutes, day care or housing for homeless children, counseling and care giving for battered women, and many others. They also provide spaces for a variety of activities: concerts by popular bands, nightlife, art installations, theater, politi- cal meetings and conferences, radio and TV broadcasting, and spaces for activist organizing. While corporate music venues tend to charge high admission fees and the spaces themselves are highly regulated, social centers operate outside the coercive realm of corporations and the state, and inhabitants can essentially do as they please (in good
faith), without drug crackdowns, age restrictions, and curfews. The low cost of concert admissions enables participation from a broader audience and proceeds are fed back into the centers.
About half of the social centers in Italy have acquired some degree of legal status as of this writing, but not without controversy. Rivolta, for example, was occupied in 1996; an empty factory in the industrial town of Marghera, it was owned privately and slated to be sold and transformed into a large commercial area. After the space was squat- ted, the municipality decided, at the urging of sympathetic govern- ment officials in the green and democratic parties, to designate most of the space for “social use.” The other half of the centers remain unsanctioned and therefore, subject to enclosure.5 Legal status tends to be more difficult for those located in areas with higher price tags on real estate, and squatters who live and work in those spaces must remain on guard for police infiltration. Moreover, some of them view the sanctioned centers as less authentic in keeping with their antipathy to conventional political entities. Some of the disputes among social centers correspond to the divisions among anarchists and autonomist groups outlined in this chapter.
U.S. activists tend to be less divided over issues related to political legacy, yet they face their own set of challenges building political and social alternatives in an enormously diverse country without a func- tional left. Nonetheless, a surprising number of anarchist bookstores, magazines, recording groups and labels, food cooperatives, concert venues, and other social formations continue to flourish. Similar to their Italian counterparts, antiauthoritarian groups in the United States engage in service provision campaigns that are informed by their belief in a reinvigoration of commons. The anarchist group, FNB, for instance, was founded on an acknowledgment of food “as a right, not privilege.” The first Food Not Bombs (FNB) was formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1980 by antinuclear activists, but the network has grown to include hundreds of local chapters and has links to various groups like EarthFirst!, the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, the Anarchist Black Cross, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and several others. FNB chapters are indeed diverse, and they do not employ formal leaderships or central apparatuses. They recover food that would otherwise be thrown out and serve fresh, vegetarian meals to hungry people free of charge. For example, FNB served food to sur- vivors of California earthquakes, 9/11 rescue workers, and victims of the Sri Lankan tsunami, as well as New Orleanians abandoned by the local and federal government in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Verticals Versus Horizontals in the Wsf
In his work on the WSF, Immanuel Wallerstein (2004b) traces anar- chist and autonomist’s distrust of parties and other forms of conven- tional political organization back to “the world revolution of 1968” when New Left activists addressed the failures of the Old Left along three major axes: (1) the New Left sought to prioritize issues that the Old Left promised would be dealt with after they ascended to power, such as the rights of women, young people, and minorities; (2) they were against the centralism of the Old Left and the subsumption of identity issues under a single party line; and (3) some were mistrustful of states and the Old Left’s strategy to assume state power—although, Wallerstein admits, the antistatist standpoint was by no means unani- mously accepted.
Similar to the New Left, antiauthoritarians in the AGM and WSF emphasize their ethic of autonomy in contention with WSF organiz- ers, political parties, and state officials, coded as a conflict between “horizontals” and “verticals.” Each year at the Forum, anarchists and other “horizontals” have clashed with organizers and participants over its relationship to political parties and heads of state. While the Charter of Principles banned parties and state officials from direct participation, they continued to play an integral role in its develop- ment as headline speakers, financial supports, and organizers. In keeping with their critique of the state, antiauthoritarians rejected political party actors (and their front groups) and in some cases staged direct actions against them. They also criticized the WSF Organizing Committee and IC for failing to operate a truly open space. The non- coercive, nonpartisan character of the WSF was largely influenced by antiauthoritarian principles, but nonrepresentative standing commit- tees and their “behind closed doors” decision-making processes were perceived as the antithesis of “open” and democratic.
In a written response to these accusations, Chico Whitaker claimed that WSF committees do not need to represent the WSF population as a whole since the Forum itself does not operate as a deliberative body. Participants pointed out, however, that standing committees make key political decisions regarding the political direction and content of the Forum, including how it relates to heads of state like Lula or Chávez; which kinds of groups—militant, anarchist, armed—are included or excluded; which sessions would be placed center stage and supplied with translation (i.e., what were the most pressing political issues of our time?); and which organizations would fund the WSF (and what are the formal and informal costs of this funding?). Given the political
stakes of such questions, anarchists were incensed by the exclusion of anticapitalist and antiauthoritarian viewpoints (Osterweil, 2004b; Albert, 2004). This exclusion extended to other parts of the process as well. Rather than build on the efforts of the PGA network, mem- bers of the WSF’s committee structure called for the development of a Social Movements World Network (SMWN). WSF constituents were calling for the Forum to undertake “action-oriented” functions, and organizers billed the SMWN as a way to meet this demand without transforming the entire WSF into a social movement. Adamovsky, a member of the PGA, pointed out that “[t]he proposal for the SMWN is written in the same non-hierarchical language But one gets little
suspicious when new funky language seems to be there only to conceal the old political forms and practices . . . A certain number of groups can indeed form a coalition, but it would never encompass a whole network. And networks definitely don’t have Secretariats; that’s the very essence of a network” (Adamovsky, 2003).
For antiauthoritarians concerned with the ways in which power relations are embedded in institutional practices, WSF organizers’ practice of obscuring their hand in determining the direction of the WSF was problematized and contested in the form of autonomous spaces. These spaces operated at the margins of the WSF but remained connected to the Forum as a whole, and were conceived as a way to “contaminate” its proceedings and “change the organization from inside and outside” (Farrer, 2002). Moreover, they were positioned antagonistically to liberals in the WSF whose “self-destructive hab- its of strengthening existing structures of government through vot- ing and lobbying” were perceived as being favored over independent social and political projects.
While the practice of organizing autonomous spaces reached its apex at the London European Social Forum (ESF)6 in 2004, they had been present at the WSF since its inception. The WSF International Youth Camp (IYC), for example, emerged in response to a housing shortage at the 2001 WSF and was primarily organized by Brazilian youth organizations, some of which were associated with political parties. By the second WSF, however, antiauthoritarian groups had become closely involved in the organization of the IYC and established it as an autonomous space with its own programming and cultural events. Inside the Youth Camp, they organized the first Intergalactika Laboratory of Global Resistance in 2002, named after a Zapatista slogan that described the scope of the contemporary resistance against neoliberalism as “intergalactic.” Intergalactika was a large tent space inside the IYC that served as a participatory forum for grassroots
social movements and activists. It was one of the only places in the WSF where direct action tactics were discussed, including protests against the central WSF itself. In 2002, for example, activists met in Intergalactika and planned an action against the installation of a WSF VIP room. They squatted the space, declaring “We are all VIPs!” After that, the VIP room was abolished.
In the European social forum context, autonomous spaces were established in distinction to the central ESF and from each other. At the first ESF in Florence, for example, the Cobas Thematic Squares, the Italian Disobeddienti’s “No Work, No Shop” space, and the Eur@ ction Hub project occupied separate venues because they disagreed on the purposes and function of the spaces. Other autonomous activities in the WSF and ESF included Z Magazine’s “Life after Capitalism” conference series in 2003, Mumbai Resistance (MR), the Peoples Movements Encounter II (agricultural workers and small farmers’ unions) at the 2004 WSF in India, and the Metallo lab and Space Towards the Globalization of Disobedient Struggles and Actions (GLAD) at the 2003 ESF in Paris.
The presence of autonomous spaces and years of consistent and mounting criticism regarding the Forum’s nondemocratic organiza- tion had a significant impact on the larger Forum process, as evinced by the decision to create an entirely self-organized WSF in 2005. While some complained that the move to self-organization further fragmented the space, others saw it as a positive development that gave the Forum “a more popular, grassroots feel” (Juris, 2006). In addi- tion, in 2005 the Youth Camp was expanded to include seven “Action Centers,”7 including Intergalactika, where WSF IC and Organizing Committee participated in an “open mic” event to provide activists with an opportunity to give feedback to the organizers (Nunes et al., 2005). Practical and theoretical differences between antiauthoritar- ians and political party members played out in the form of the auton- omous spaces mentioned above and in the form of public debate in large venues at both the ESF and WSF. An annual debate entitled “Working Class versus Multitude,” for example, epitomized key dif- ferences between verticals and horizontals over questions of politi- cal organization and social change. The debate typically involved a leader from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), Alex Callinicos or Chris Harmon, pitted against Michael Hardt or Antonio Negri.
The vertical/horizontal debates may function, to some degree, as a false dichotomy. Some autonomists and anarchists employ hierarchi- cal movement structures or fall into cliques and lifestylism; and some verticals, such as those within orthodox Marxist parties, go to great
lengths to garner participation from outside their circles and the left more generally—that is, they expand horizontally. It is important to note, however, that in other ways the vertical/horizontal divide points to fundamental breaks between such groups over issues of social change and agency, and what the egalitarian societies they envision would look like in practical terms. Michael Hardt (2002) discusses these disjunctures in terms of political organization: whereas politi- cal parties and groups like Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for Assistance to Citizens (ATTAC) operate as “the voice of national sovereignty,” grassroots activists organized in horizontal networks seek nonnational alternatives to capitalist globalization:
either one can work to reinforce the sovereignty of nation-states as a defensive barrier against the control of foreign and global capital, or one can strive towards a non-national alternative to the present form of globalization that is equally global. The first poses neoliberalism as the primary analytical category, viewing the enemy as unrestricted global capitalist activity with weak state controls; the second is more clearly posed against capital itself, whether state-regulated or not.
Movements have struggled to mitigate these conflicts by experiment- ing with fluid, network organizational forms that, in some cases, have helped them to overcome this polarizing tendency by linking hetero- geneous groups and organizations for specific actions or projects.
Networks in the Agm and Wsf
Historically, antiauthoritarians (anarchists and autonomists) have operationalized their ethic of autonomy by creating organizational forms that involve decentralized, autonomous units interconnected via federal arrangements (Ward, 1965). They not only eschew elec- toral politics and juridical (rights-based) solutions to social prob- lems, but also reject the imposition of national boundaries and other spatial arrangements that deny the autonomy of local communities and fix social relations around artificial borders. Anarchists under- stand such boundaries to be “artificial” in the sense that they do not conform to the more organic ways in which communities emerge and reproduce—especially in the context of globalization in which freer flows of goods and services are matched by highly regulated and policed immigration systems. Instead, they argue for an alter- native globalization and social ecology comprised of self-organized and -managed communities and local units that allow for an unbri- dled flow of people around the globe in lieu of boundaries imposed
by states. For them, local organic units are more likely to prevent illegitimate hierarchies because they require a minimum delegation of authority; when representation is deemed necessary, there is at least a high degree accountability between representatives and their commu- nities (Bookchin, 1969:1).
Within the AGM and WSF, the anarchist language of federalism has shifted to one of “networks,” which, as Hardt and Negri (2004) point out, encapsulates both the theory and practice of autonomy: “(e)ach local struggle functions as a node that communicates with all the other nodes without any hub or center of intelligence. Each struggle remains singular and tied to its local conditions but at the same time is immersed in the common web . . . The global extension of the common does not negate the singularity of each of those who participates in the network” (217). This model inspired many “verti- cal” groups to question their own dogma, or at least suspend it for the sake of cooperation and enabled antiauthoritarians to overcome their antisocial and anti-intellectual tendencies and refocus their attention on building more tenable kinds of mutual aid communities and resis- tance movements, beyond subculture and guerilla tactics (Grubacic, 2003; Chomsky, 2005). The Direct Action Network (DAN), for example, was initially founded to coordinate the demonstrations against the WTO in Seattle in November 1999 on a regional scale, but it remained functional until the start of the antiwar movement. Comprised of local affinity groups and activists interested in orga- nizing direct action protests, DAN operated according to autonomist principles in two distinct ways: First, in contrast to orthodox groups’ centralized and hierarchical organization, DAN made use of consen- sus decision-making processes to prevent any one group from control- ling the network and as an experiment in participatory democracy. Second, its structure consisted of autonomous affinity groups that acted as nodes in the larger, organized network or federation, rather than operating as a centralized organization with local affiliates that bore allegiance to a center (Doane et al., 2000; Graeber, 2004a).
While DAN’s antiauthoritarian organizational ethic was simi- lar to that of the New Left, it did not have a defined leadership like SDS, nor did it replicate the micropolitical pitfalls of essentialism and structurelessness, explicated by Jo Freeman. Rather, it made use of direct democratic procedures based on consensus process as a means to enable a noncoercive climate of egalitarianism and open partici- pation. In the context of DAN, consensus process encouraged each member of the network to participate in discussions and decision
making on a relatively equal basis. Embedded in the process was an ethical assumption that consensus deliberation is not about convert- ing other people to one’s way of thinking and should be focused on managing diversity rather than suppressing it. Unlike voting and aca- demic discourse, which tend to be informed by an ethics of compe- tition, consensus process “is built on a principle of compromise and creativity where one is constantly changing proposals around until one can come up with something everyone can at least live with the
incentive is always to put the best possible construction on others’ arguments” (Graeber, 2004a:2).
While Bookchin contends that consensus does not enable disagree- ment or leave room for the possibility of “dissensus,” the process utilized by DAN and other AGM groups included various built-in mechanisms for participants to disagree and make new proposals. DAN meetings, for example, involved following an agenda estab- lished by a moderator at the beginning of each meeting, which was approved or disputed by meeting attendees via straw vote. Discussion on each agenda item followed a specific process: Time was allotted for group discussion, followed by the development of a proposal (by any participant). The floor was open for concerns regarding the pro- posal and amendments could be made based on the discussion. If consensus was still not established, individuals with concerns could have those concerns noted (and abstain), let the motion pass, or block the passing of the motion. Blocks were taken seriously and motions were rarely passed unless the motives of the “blocker” were called into question. Even when consensus was established, there was always space for participants to withdraw from the group or block decisions if done in good faith.
DAN was made up of decentralized autonomous affinity groups, internally connected through voluntary association among their members. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, it served as a nonhierar- chical hub for affinity groups around the United States and Canada. It largely avoided coercive and discriminatory practices and there were no leaders with long-standing assignments. In actuality, every partic- ipant was a leader: meetings were conducted by facilitators and each person in the local network had the opportunity to lead the group at one time or another (Doane et al., 2000).
In addition to affinity groups, activists from hierarchically orga- nized groups (like political parties and NGOs) participated in DAN. While there were interlockings and negotiations, there was never any overarching subordination nor was any single entity in the network
subordinate to another. Groups entered into DAN to fill a basic need (e.g., defend a squat house) or plan an event (e.g., teach-ins, civil dis- obedience), but DAN was never seen as a means or a step toward a defined end (ibid.). Despite their commitment to party politics, for example, members of various local Green parties participated along- side anarchists, community organizers from groups such as the AIDS Housing Network, activists from NGOs like the Rainforest Action Network and Public Citizen, professional journalists, university pro- fessors and students, and various, unaffiliated others—without osten- sibly using the network for electoral gain. At the beginning of each DAN meeting, “Points of Unity” for participants were established via consensus process. Oftentimes these Points involved establishing an explicit understanding of the network as one “comprised of autono- mous agents.”
DAN’s modus operandi was less about an enforced movement toward some ideal state of affairs or support for a single project or politician than about linking heterogeneous groups with unique histo- ries and producing stable interactions among them. While some of its constituent groups might have been uneasy if not outright opposed to the anarchist label, DAN abided by many anarchist principles: it was noncoercive, nonhierarchical, decentralized, and interested in maxi- mizing the autonomy of affinity groups. It conjoined various social movement struggles in major North American cities (most notably linking New York and San Francisco)—and overcame the problem of centralism by developing a principled, action-oriented network that protected the autonomy of its constituents, enabled participation, and did not require them to adopt a unified program or party line. DAN demonstrated the effectiveness of loose network organization in staging mass demonstrations against the WTO in Seattle, which succeeded in disrupting the meetings, as well as in Washington, DC, in 2000. Soon after it dissolved, new networks sprung up in its place to perform direct actions and civil disobedience against the second Iraq War.
On the heels of the success of networks like DAN, Via Campesina, the PGA, and the social center movement, to name a few, antiauthori- tarians in the WSF attempted to create a network, federal structure out of the process by focusing their attention on local and regional social forums. Locals were not cost prohibitive for participants and could occur in more intimate settings. They were, in some cases, more effective in involving members of local communities, and enabling them to participate directly. Michael Albert (2004), a former member
of the WSF IC and one of its most outspoken advocates and critics, argued for a radical decentralization of the WSF based on his work on participatory economic structures (Parecon) and interest in radical democratic organizational forms. In 2002, the proliferation of local and regional social forums in various parts of the world, especially in Europe, created the appearance that the WSF was indeed heading in that direction, but the interconnections among the Forums were weak, and in some cases, contentious. In the end, the localization process was not nearly as successful as many hoped it would be. Local forums lacked infrastructure and resources and the central WSF did little to help facilitate their survival or coordinate them. A minor- ity of locals continue to flourish, especially in South America. In the European context, however, the momentum has dropped precipi- tously. In Italy, for example, over 50 social forums were allegedly founded within the first two or three years, but very few of them exist today. The same can be said for antiauthoritarians’ involvement in the larger WSF; many of them have abandoned the Forum for more action-oriented projects, but also because of seemingly irreconcilable political differences, disappointment at their exclusion from an orga- nizing process marked by a serious lack of transparency, and the over- all depoliticization of the process by organizers and NGOs. As the next chapter demonstrates, some antiauthoritarians have, however, begun to rethink their views regarding the role of states in the fight against neoliberalism (and capital, more broadly), especially those in the South American context where grassroots social movements are playing an increasingly important role in the administration of important resources like land and water, while theorizing them as commons in public discourse.
5. Political Parties and the State
Throughout this text, politics and political organization have been treated in their broadest sense, as the ways in which people exercise power over each other in the pursuit of the good life, and the organi- zational means by which they collectively articulate their desires for freedom and social change on a broad scale. In more formal terms, however, political organization tends to refer specifically to politi- cal parties; and politics, to the realm of the state and the various institutions—lobbies, courts, and parties—that comprise its immedi- ate domain. In this regard, the involvement of political parties in the AGM and WSF extends questions regarding social change and agency into the realm of formal politics, including those regarding the role of states in the fight against neoliberalism.
In the early twentieth century, debates over political organization focused primarily on problems of political mediation and centralism when communist and social democratic party intellectuals theorized the transition from capitalism to communism in a period of intense social change. Despite the nonrevolutionary character of the late twen- tieth and twenty-first centuries, the problem of how to build a viable antineoliberal resistance and alternative social and political structures remains a serious question among contemporary movements, espe- cially in light of debates over state sovereignty and the new, “suprana- tional” power arrangements associated with globalization.
Because of their affiliation with states, and association with coer- cive forms of power, political parties have been officially excluded from participation in the WSF. The impetus for the ban can be traced to the following factors: First, participants and organizers wanted to ensure that the domestic politics of any one locale did not take over the Forum or supplant its global character. Second, the ban was
a response to the failures of left political parties to meet the needs of everyday people, especially women and minorities, but also because of their historical association with authoritarian and undemocratic regimes. Following the New Left, parties were viewed by many con- stituents of the WSF and AGM as sectarian, vanguardist, and gener- ally antagonistic to the radically democratic politics for which they were fighting. Third, WSF participants and founders wanted to create a unique social space for movements and NGOs to build activist net- works and bolster their political projects without becoming subsumed in electoral politics or electorally based definitions of democratic practice. The assumption underlying its nonpartisan character was that the WSF occupied a sphere of civil society, comprised of social movements, NGOs, church groups, and other institutions that oper- ated according to sets of interests and norms distinct from those of state and market actors.
Despite the ban, political parties have played a prominent role in the WSF as key financial and organizational supporters of the process and a significant number of attendees are drawn from their ranks. The Workers Party (PT), for example, hosted the event (in 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2009), the Chávez administration hosted one of the polycentrics in 2006, and various communist and socialist party members around the world continue to participate regularly. The 2009 WSF in Belém featured a historic meeting of five left-wing Latin American presidents—from Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Paraguay—that brought unprecedented media attention and created the appearance that the WSF was becoming more involved in mainstream, state-centered politics.
In 2004, when the WSF moved to India, the ban was suspended and political parties played a prominent organizational role, espe- cially members of the Communist Party of India (CPI(M)). The India Organizing Committee defended the move by citing the importance of political parties to the Indian context; regardless, they were chastised for allowing the Charter of Principles to be altered. Their critics argued that the Charter should operate as a kind of standard to foster continu- ity from year to year, and coherence among the hundreds of local and regional social forums around the world. In addition, they asserted, the Charter’s mandates should remain in tact, regardless of changes in venue and locale, in order to protect the integrity of the WSF’s identity as an open space and civil society formation. Nonetheless, the overwhelming response to the India WSF was positive due to the broadening of issues to include fundamentalism, caste, and women’s concerns, the expansion of the WSF population to include dalits and
other disenfranchised groups, and the spread of the process beyond the Western hemisphere to another major region in the world.
In addition to their increasing influence over the WSF process, political parties have played a significant part in the development of local and regional social forums. The Austrian Social Forum, for example, attracted roughly 2,000 participants in 2002 and 2003 and was funded by the Green Party and municipal governments; the national German Social Forum was initiated and funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, the national foundation affiliated with the Party of Democratic Socialism (Germany) (PDS); the CPI(M) played a central role in the regional Asian Social Forum that led up to the 2004 WSF in India; and several of the social forums in Italy were funded by communist and green parties.
The European Social Forum (ESF) has also been funded by par- ties each year, but with varying degrees of controversy. The 2003 ESF in Paris, for example, involved French political parties, but only to a limited degree. The 2005 ESF in London, on the other hand, was dominated by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and Greater London Authority (GLA), the municipal government headed by Ken Livingston, which drew considerable criticism and protest. These trends date back to the first ESF in Florence in 2002, which was almost entirely spon- sored by political parties and government officials. The idea to hold the 2002 ESF in Florence was initiated by Claudio Martini, president of the Regional administration and member of the Democratic Left Party, who attended the first WSF in Porto Alegre. Intimately tied to the local political apparatus in the region, the ESF was funded in part by the Region of Toscane, which also provided translation, housing for 5,000 people, and a fairly elaborate venue. Additional funding was provided by the Partido della Rifondazione Comunista and the SWP in Britain under the front group “Globalize Resistance” (which some activists call “Monopolize Resistance”). In addition to the influence of local parties, the event became a controversial political issue on the national level when Italian President Silvio Berlusconi publicly likened it to the vio- lent, anti-G8 protests in Genoa (Treanor, 2002; Farrer, 2002).
While the SWP in Britain followed a hard, anticapitalist line that privileged the industrial working class as a key political subject, others like Rifondazione Comunista and some of the Greens advocate for more lateral relationships with social movements and autonomous groups (which have not always come to fruition). Democratic social- ist governments in South America, however, drew the most atten- tion for their role in the WSF and broader antineoliberal resistance.
In 2003, for example, when Lula was first elected president, partici- pants in the AGM and WSF were wildly enthusiastic about what his administration would do to eradicate poverty and loosen the IMF’s grip on Brazil and the rest of Latin America. Lula’s party had direct ties to social movements in the country and the party’s participatory bud- get program was lauded as a working case of direct democracy. A few years later, Hugo Chávez and the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), engaged Venezuela in a “Bolivarian Revolution,” joining Evo Morales and the Movement of Socialism (MAS) in nationalizing various indus- tries in their respective countries, including oil and gas, while claiming that “the worst enemy of humanity is U.S. capitalism.”1 This turn to the left in South American countries and their ongoing progress in contesting neoliberal institutions like the IMF has refocused the WSF and AGM’s attention on states as potential agents of change.
This chapter focuses on political parties’ role in the AGM and WSF and on the left more generally. It begins with a brief history of the classic debates over political organization and the state within the Marxist tradition, leading up to contemporary work by left intellectu- als and activists over issues of centralism, hierarchical organization, and class struggle. It looks at the controversies surrounding political parties on the left in the present day, as well as the ways in which cer- tain parties are changing how WSF and AGM activists view states’ roles in the global opposition to neoliberalism and development of egalitarian solutions.
Political Organization and Party Formations
Classical Marxist Theories of Political Organization
One of the most important debates in the history of left political orga- nization is that between Vladimir Ilych Lenin (head of the Bolshevik party and first premier of the Soviet Union) and Rosa Luxemburg (rev- olutionary theorist of the German Social Democratic Party (SDP) of the Kingdom of Poland and later, Germany) leading up to the proletarian revolution in Russia and the failed revolution in Germany. While the role of the party in catalyzing the revolution was a general, theoretical question within and outside Marxist circles (it was conceived, after all, as a world revolution), theories of political organization produced by Marxist revolutionaries were significantly influenced by the state of class relations within their particular locales. Lenin and Luxemburg’s respective theories of political organization, for example, were rooted
in the historical-geographic conditions in which they lived and orga- nized. While both theorists were concerned with how to precipitate the revolution and the transition from capitalist to communist society, they differed, sometimes significantly, on how it was to be accomplished.
Because of the significance of their differences, the common denominators between Lenin and Luxemburg’s work are often over- looked. Both theorists agreed that a proletarian dictatorship was a necessary moment in the development of a communist society, as opposed to social democrats like Eduard Bernstein and other “revi- sionists,” who rejected the idea of a violent revolution followed by a transitional, proletarian state. For both Lenin and Luxemburg, as well as German Communist Party founder (and its main theoreti- cian) August Thalheimer (1930), revisionism “tore the revolutionary centre from the Marxist conception of the proletarian revolution, by dispelling the proletarian dictatorship and limiting the revolutionary struggle to the democratic-parliamentary-trade union struggle.” In the context of the struggle for German social democracy from 1870 to 1914, Bernstein and his ilk put forth the idea that a violent proletarian revolution should be replaced by reform-oriented parliamentary and trade union struggle, which Thalheimer described as a “fragment” of Marxism (ibid.). In addition to their common opposition to the revi- sionists, both Lenin and Luxemburg agreed on the need for a central- ized political apparatus or party, and that the party should serve as an organ of the workers’ movement. They also agreed that the party should precipitate and nurture the revolution by acting as a mecha- nism through which various sectors of the movement could be united in a common program. Both theorists saw the party as a vanguard of the revolution insofar as it could grasp intellectually the whole of the movement’s parts. Finally, they both agreed that the party should be constituted by intellectuals and revolutionary workers (Aronowitz, 2006a, 2006b).
The key differences between Lenin and Luxemburg concern the relationship between the party and the workers, and in particular, the question of how revolutionary consciousness would be achieved among the latter. As Mike Jones pointed out in the Introduction to Thalheimer’s essay on Lenin and Luxemburg, Luxemburg’s opposition to centralism was historically situated: in the throes of the German experience, she opposed the centralism of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and its tendency toward class collaboration. Luxemburg’s for- mulations arose from her experience “in a country where the work- ing class did not constitute a small minority of the population as in
Russia, but the majority. Where the anti-feudal agrarian revolution had already been completed. Where capitalism had attained its highest level of development. Where the working class had for decades been used to broad mass organizations . . .” In light of the accomplishments of the German workers, Luxemburg argued that the party should be structured in such a way as to be responsive to the “creative deeds of the revolutionary workers, to integrate into its arsenal their new con- ceptions, and to theorize such novel creations” (Thalheimer, 1930). For her, a centralized party would be too far removed from its con- stituency; it could not conceive of the movement, understand its pro- gression, nor gain from its productive, creative character from such a distance. Moreover, Luxemburg asserted against Lenin that the party should not be understood as a mechanism through which a revolution- ary consciousness would be brought to the working class from outside its ranks. Rather, the workers themselves would “become conscious” through the process of struggle, which, in turn, would feedback or inform broader conceptions and theories of the movement formu- lated by the party. For Luxemburg, revolutionary theory and practice should operate in a reciprocal manner. The work of the party was to understand and theorize the existing consciousness of the working class, not to school it on already formulated strategy. As Jones put it, “For Luxemburg, as for Marx, the emergence of the party does not result from the will of the intellectuals but from the conscious deci- sion of the working class, out of a stage in its development, and out of the class struggle itself. Everything else is sect-building” (ibid.).
In contrast to Luxemburg, Lenin argued for the development of a vanguard party to lead the working class to revolutionary conscious- ness. While Luxemburg was concerned with processes of struggle, Lenin was focused on ends; for her, the working class was the catalyst for revolution, but for him, the catalyst was the party. Following the split in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP) in July 1912, Luxemburg wrote in Czerwony Sztanddar that “the Central Committee is everything whereas the real party is only its append- age, a mindless mass which moves mechanically on the orders of the leader like the army exercising on the parade ground and like a choir performing under the baton of the conductor” (ibid.).
It could be said that Luxemburg’s faith in the working class was matched by Lenin’s severe lack of it, but before passing judgment on his elitism, one must consider the historical context in which his ideas were formed. Trotsky (1940) described Lenin’s leadership as abso- lutely essential to the success of the October Revolution because
he “personified the revolutionary traditions of the working class.” Moreover, while Luxemburg’s workers were well organized and versed, Lenin’s constituted a minority, inexperienced in the ways of mass organization. Perhaps more importantly, revolutionary activity among Lenin’s workers was difficult to engender and gauge because much of it was forced underground within the repressive atmosphere of tsarist Russia, when unions and social democratic parties were illegal. Thalheimer (1930) elucidated this distinction in the following terms:
The “professional revolutionary” is a necessary product and tool of the leadership of the revolutionary organization that is illegal and is not yet a mass organization. In the legal Communist mass organiza- tion there is no place for the “professional revolutionary” in this sense. Here, as the movement grows, the “professional revolutionary” too easily changes into the characterless, politically and materially corrupt careerist bureaucrat, for whom the revolutionary movement is a source of a living, of a career, of parliamentary and other posts.
Following Lenin and Luxemburg’s debates, Marxist intellectuals such as Georg Lukacs and Antonio Gramsci continued to theorize the role of the party in the period after the Bolshevik revolution, when workers’ movements were in retreat, and fascist and proto-fascist military regimes had taken power in Eastern and Southern Europe (Aronowitz, 2006a). Lukacs wrote History and Class Consciousness in 1923 during his tenure as a leader of the illegal Hungarian Communist Party, for example, and in a chapter entitled “Towards a Methodology of the Problem of Political Organization,” theorized the role of the party as a mechanism of fundamental social change in a nonrevolutionary period. For Lukacs, the party was the mediation between the subjective elements of a class formation and the objective historical conditions in which it exists; it is the process through which a movement or class comprehends itself within larger historical pro- cesses. For Lukacs, the party was the means through which the the- oretical underpinnings of a movement intermix with its practice and movements come to understand their power in relation to the general landscape of power relations they seek to infiltrate and contest:
In the last analysis this question is the same as that of the dialecti- cal relation between “final goal” and “movement,” i.e. between the- ory and practice For a problem always makes its appearance first
as an abstract possibility and only afterwards is it realized in concrete
terms . . . Organization is the mediation between theory and practice. And, as in every dialectical relationship, the terms of the relation only acquire concreteness and reality in and by virtue of this mediation. (Lukacs, 1972:296)
Stanley Aronowitz (2006b) situates Lukacs’ concept of the party within the broader context of his philosophical and political work. He points to Lukacs’ renowned discussion of the reification of the consciousness of the Proletariat: reflecting on Marx’s concept of the commodity fetish, Lukacs asserts that under capitalism, relations between people take on the appearance of relations among things. Aronowitz adds: “at the core of the argument is his claim that under the domination of capital, the workers see themselves as fragmented objects rather than subjects of the historical process” (ibid.). For both Lukacs and Aronowitz, political organization means political party, but not the strictly electoral model that characterizes today’s polit- ical parties. For them, the party is the mechanism through which the fragmentation of social movement struggles and generalized lack of realization of a movement’s historical agency can be resolved. It is the potential link among disparate struggles, some of which may not presently comprehend themselves within the broader context of global capitalism or even as social movements. Thus, while air traffic controllers fight for higher wages, coal miners struggle for improved occupational safety, and communities in New Orleans try to prevent housing developers from transforming their subsidized homes into those slated for “mixed income”—all of these campaigns should be understood as “necessarily partial”—for Aronowitz, the party is the mediation among them and the fight against capital that should “indi- cate the principles for a better life embedded in them.”
A contemporary of Lukacs, Antonio Gramsci also emphasized the role of the party in the development of a revolutionary praxis, fol- lowing his leading role in the Italian Communist Party (PCI) and sub- sequent incarceration by Mussolini’s fascist regime, where he wrote the famous Prison Notebooks. To recall chapter 3, Gramsci asserted that although direct confrontation of state power, a war of maneu- ver, was untenable in nontotalitarian societies with highly developed civil societies, a war of position could be waged within the sphere of civil society to counter the bourgeois common sense. For Gramsci, civil society was constituted by a set of institutions that represented itself as autonomous from both the state and market. Here, civil soci- ety includes institutions that cross into the economic sphere, such as
trade unions and employers’ associations, but mainly refers to sites of cultural production occupied by churches, parties, and civic and pro- fessional associations, as opposed to corporations and firms whose functional capacity was to organize production.
Gramsci’s revolutionary project involved contests over popular cul- ture, communication, and belief systems as part of a larger objective to upset the bourgeois common sense and constitute a counterhege- mony against the ideological domination of the ruling class. Civil society was, after all, the primary dimension of social life in which consent and the legitimacy of the state was manufactured. To that end, he stressed the political role of intellectuals and the development of the subordinate classes’ own “organic” intellectuals—such as civil servants and teachers—who would develop intellectual and political consciousness organically within a particular class formation and be trained to perform particular functions for it. Gramsci theorized the role of the party in terms of its educative functions and role in building a new sensibility. He moved beyond questions of strategy with regard to property relations and focused on the development of individual capacities and cultural forms. In the modern world, class domination involved more than the fulfillment of the interests of a particular class; it required intellectual and moral hegemony, which necessarily involved class compromises. The role of the party was to cultivate a counterhegemony through the development of working- class ideology, institutions, and cultural forms.
Needless to say, no country or region in the world is currently challenging neoliberal hegemony with the threat of a proletarian revolution as in the days of Lenin and Luxemburg, although some movements—such as the Comités Patrióticos in Costa Rica2 or those involved in the Bolivian water wars—have waged significant insur- rections against the privatization of public resources. Despite these challenges to state actors, the ideas and practices of Marxist intellec- tuals regarding the constitution of a revolutionary party have essen- tially lost traction among a large portion of today’s activists, not only because of their incompatibility with the nonrevolutionary period of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but also owing in larger part to the disaster of Stalinism and the overt sectarianism and legisla- tive ineffectiveness that plague contemporary communist and social- ist parties. Nonetheless, the debates between Lenin and Luxemburg raise an important set of issues that remain largely unresolved among today’s social movements and left political theorists. The problem of autonomy, centralization, and what Michels (1962) identified as the
“iron law of oligarchy” still beleaguers activists, albeit with different stakes and circumstances, and controversies over the role of radical political parties, movement leadership, and organization in the WSF, AGM, and beyond fall squarely into this problematic.
Contemporary Theories of Political Organization
The issue of political organization has been taken up by an assortment of today’s social theorists concerned with questions of centralization, class, and the galvanization of a counterhegemonic movement. Hardt and Negri’s Empire (1999) and Multitude (2004), for example, con- stitute direct attempts to theorize the new historical circumstances, power arrangements, and relations of sovereignty in twenty-first century globalization and connect these to contemporary resistance movements, both actual and potential. While many on the left held on to a view of national sovereignty as an ultimate authority in inter- national affairs, and saw globalization as simply a new form of impe- rialism, Hardt and Negri argued that a new set of power relations had emerged in which an imperial authority was trumping the sov- ereignty of nation-states. In Empire, they asserted that the increas- ing porosity of nation-states was giving way to a new order, run by supranational institutions, but also resisted by supranational move- ments. They reconceptualized Marxism’s assumptions regarding the nature of work within the new context, including the central role of the industrial working class in enacting radical social change. In the wake of new, flexible relations of work and the increasing prevalence of immaterial labor,3 Hardt and Negri (2004) theorized an exploita- tion that cut across traditional class boundaries: “We consider all the workers in the whole of society to be exploited, men, women, people who work in services, people who work in nursing, people who work in linguistic relations, people who work in the cultural field, in all of the social relations, and in so far as they are exploited we consider them part of the multitude, inasmuch as they are singularities.”
In one of the “Working Class versus Multitude” debates at the ESF in Paris, Negri explained that for him, the question was not whether or how to create class coalitions or privilege the industrial working class as a specific class formation, but rather, “the problem is to refer to the unique root of value, the unique quality of labour. It is the dig- nity of labour that allows us to propose alternative paths for life and society” (ibid.). He asserted that labor—not only that which occurs in the factory or workplace— expresses the activity through which
relationships are formed and the world is made. Multitude marks his and Hardt’s effort to move beyond understandings of the working class as a mass concept and toward an appreciation for the particular- ities of labor and value production in contemporary societies, includ- ing the emergence of the social worker,4 involved in the entire span of production and reproduction, corresponding to the expansive nature of capital’s control over society.
Alex Callinicos was positioned as the anti-Negri at the 2003 ESF debate, representing a view of political organization rooted in the Trotskyite tendency to privilege the party as a purveyor of revolution- ary consciousness and the working class, as a primary agent of social change. Despite the closed-knit tendencies of many of his comrades, Callinicos has acknowledged the need to develop coalitions with non- Marxist organizations and social movements and urged orthodox Marxists to join forces with groups in the AGM, despite his claim regarding the latter’s apparent inability to grasp the significance of socialist ideology:
Some on the Marxist left tend to be dismissive of these coalitions because many of the activists in them do not describe themselves as socialists (this is even more true of the North American networks). This apparent contradictory state of affairs—activists fighting global capitalism but denying that socialism is the alternative—is a conse- quence of the fact that resistance to the system revived in an ideological climate in which not merely revolutionary Marxism but other socialist traditions had been marginalized. To exclude this layer of activists— numerically probably the largest grouping on an international scale— from the broader anti-capitalist left would be a disastrous sectarian error.
Callinicos’ argument fell on deaf ears among members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), who eventually split with the SWP over their involvement in the AGM. Like the SWP, the ISO is an anticapitalist, activist organization aimed at establishing a new, social- ist order in the tradition of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky (International Socialist Organization, 2007). The organization is known for its pop- ularity among college students and ability to turnout large numbers of young people for demonstrations and activist conferences. Members pay dues to the organization and participate by attending ISO meetings and events and selling the organization’s newspaper Socialist Worker. The ISO has long been a subject of controversy, however, over its orga- nizational character. As Nation journalist Liza Featherstone (2002)
put it, “some fellow progressives see ISO members as hard-working, articulate activists . . . whose work strengthens student organizations. Others find them heavy-handed and controlling, and as with most party-building activists, critics worry that their main allegiance is to the party rather than a specific campaign or issue” (4).
The ISO operates according to a rigid, hierarchical organizational structure that consists of local offices and a centralized office (in Chicago) that houses the organization’s national meetings and man- ages U.S. operations as a whole. Card-carrying members are expected to adhere to the organization’s political line, meet newspaper sales quotas, and forgo debate over political conflicts with their superiors. They must engage in activities sponsored by the ISO and not in those of other organizations unless sanctioned by the central organization. Insolent members are excommunicated from the organization and allegedly ISO leaders have asked members to quit college or graduate school in order to better serve the organization, support the organi- zation financially even if it means incurring significant debt, or limit their romantic involvements to the ISO membership. These accounts have been documented on various blogs and Internet discussion lists and are embedded in the oral history and culture of the AGM (Toren, Lacny, and Tracy, 1998; Lacny, 2000; Shulman, 2000).
Prior to its breakup with the SWP, the ISO served as the American affiliate of the International Socialist Tendency (IST) since its found- ing in 1977. Over the years, it won favor with the SWP by building a national alliance of students against the Gulf War in 1991 and help- ing to organize the large-scale United Parcel Service of America (UPS) strike in 1997. A small number of ISO members were present in Seattle, but the group essentially ignored the urgings of its British counterparts and focused on other projects in which it could play a more prominent role. The SWP criticized this move as reflecting “a sectarian preference for a single-issue campaign that the ISO could control” and “a fear of throwing themselves into a much more diverse movement that was developing into generalized opposition to the system itself but where the ISO would have to transform themselves in order to show that their politics and their organization were relevant” (Callinicos, 2001b).
Callinicos himself serves as a representative and leader of the SWP and its affiliates around the world, whose objective is to establish a centrally administered party for existing social movements, broadening them on a mass level through highly disciplined organizing strategies (in unions, at the social forums, etc.), and developing the theoreti- cal tools to guide processes of revolutionary social change toward a
socialist end (Socialist Workers Party, 2007). The SWP and similarly structured groups, like the ISO and International Action Center (IAC), view centralism and organization as “democratic imperatives” that best facilitate concrete action and prevent the tendency for activist col- lectives to devolve into mere discussion groups. Unlike feminist and anarchist collectives that stress the importance of prefigurative politics and consciousness-raising, open discussion is viewed as “essential to a properly functioning revolutionary party,” but not as an end in itself. For them, democratic processes are merely “means of clarification” that “enabl(e) the party to act more effectively” (Callinicos, 2002:10). Massive, centralized organization is seen as a more appropriate method of waging resistance against capitalism on a massive scale than decen- tralized efforts aimed at securing the autonomy of the constituents of struggle and building networks and affinity among them. True to Lenin, they view the vanguard party as the indispensable mediator between “the masses” and the burgeoning anticapitalist resistance.
Callinicos understands that many activists, especially those in the WSF and AGM, “have a more or less hostile attitude toward political parties,” which, in his estimation, is based on a variety of factors, including the influence of autonomism, the historical failures of social democratic, communist, and green parties in the electoral sphere, and the impotence of far left parties that operate outside of it. He explains the WSF’s decision to ban political parties by pointing to these trends, yet he reminds that the ban has been difficult to maintain given the centrality of party politics in various parts of the world. He refers to the Brazilian PT’s pivotal role in the founding of the WSF and its par- ticipatory budget programs and the part groups like ATTAC and the Italian autonomists have played, asserting that they too “operate like parties, organizing on the basis of what amount to distinct political programs” (Callinicos, 2002).
In addition to his critique of Hardt and Negri’s multitude, Callinicos disparages what he perceives to be their reliance on sponta- neity as a primary mechanism of anticapitalist resistance, as opposed to formal organization and mediation. He characterizes this element of Multitude as a denial of politics: “Challenging the influence of reformism within the anti-capitalist movement cannot be left to the objective logic of ‘network movements.’ It requires the development of a coherent, organized revolutionary pole within the movement” and “a clearly articulated revolutionary Marxist analysis that informs its tactical initiatives and practical activities” (ibid.). He points to the Italian tute bianche’s failure to anticipate the magnitude of police
repression at the anti-G8 protests in Genoa as a consequence of Hardt and Negri’s “grave strategic miscalculations” associated with their autonomist disposition: “Genoa starkly exposed a truth of classical Marxism that the tute bianche had so vaingloriously dismissed—only the mass mobilization of the organized working class can counter the concentrated power of the capitalist state. In romanticizing their own confrontations with this state, the autonomists have evaded the real task of revolutionary politics—the political conquest of the major- ity of the working class.” Citing the efficient response of the SWP in developing an expansive antiwar initiative immediately follow- ing September 11, Callinicos lauds the “practical advantages” of the “relative ideological homogeneity of a revolutionary Marxist party,” which, he asserts, “gives it a greater capacity for rapid and decisive action than a looser, more programmatically ambiguous formations” (Callinicos, 2001b).
A third view on the question of political organization has been put forth by Stanley Aronowitz, whose movement base is rooted in the New Left and contemporary labor and green movements. Aronowitz details his ideas on political organization in Left Turn: Forging a New Political Future, beginning with a broad analysis of the con- temporary political landscape of the United States. Reminiscent of Lukacs, he disparages today’s left social movement activists for their tendency to focus on single issues (their fragmentation), and in the case of anarchists, for elevating protest and spontaneity to the status of a political program. This fragmentation, he asserts, is a function of contemporary movements’ failure to relate their struggles to larger, systemic forces. Aronowitz points to the importance of conducting intellectual work within movements and sees the party as the mech- anism through which counterhegemonic articulations can be made. He uses the term “leadership” to discuss the mediating function of the party and its constituents, but stresses its role as coordinator, rather than director. Contemporary movements must focus on devel- oping their own ideas and practical alternatives, rather than remain- ing merely reactive to the detrimental effects of neoliberalism and the maneuverings of the ruling class. Like Gramsci, he understands education as key to the development of a counterhegemonic project on the left, but unlike Callinicos and his ilk, does not privilege Marxism as a primary school of resistance nor the working class as a privileged agent of change. Like Hardt and Negri, he understands knowledge production and dissemination as fundamentally collective processes among autonomous actors, but he asserts that the important task of
movement building will require more organization than what is pro- posed in Multitude:
It will take an organization, or at least an organizing committee, to undertake these tasks. We cannot wait until people are “ready” to make a start. It may be argued they may never be ready without the provocation provided by a proposal to act differently. This is the chief meaning of the term “leadership.” It does not override self-activity, but neither does it take the position that we are fated to remain in a state of suspended animation until a rhizomatic rebellion occurs. (Aronowitz, 2006b:96–97).
Unlike most anarchists and other antistatists, Aronowitz does not easily dispense with the state and the “field of conventional politics.” He asserts the importance of waging resistance efforts against and within existing institutions, but cautions that state power should not be overestimated, as is the case with social democratic and other lim- ited projects of reform. He looks at the historical failures of socialist projects in which “transitional” states became totalitarian regimes, but also at more recent developments reflected in the work of Louis Althusser, who identified the coercive nature of the democratic state, deeply embedded in the variety of institutions that constitute and organize contemporary social life. Aronowitz concludes that the left “must defend society against the state” and “transform our collec- tive understanding of democracy by expanding the scope of popular decision-making to the workplace, the neighborhood and every cor- ner of social space.” He advocates for a shift from the “discourse of rights” to “practices of horizontal power” as part of the discovery of new forms of social life aimed at transforming the state “from an institution of hierarchical repression and control into a series of agencies of coordination of self-managed cooperative enterprises that organize the production and distribution of material goods and the dissemination of knowledge and information. In which case the state is no longer the state but something else” (ibid).
Aronowitz suggests that orthodox Marxism’s prediction of a rev- olutionary moment be replaced with a focus on different kinds of political mediations, characterized by more “horizontal forms of institutional life” that could be “initiated within the framework of capitalism and capitalist state as dual powers,”5 in which grass- roots organizations “undertake initiatives to challenge and some- times replace established authorities . . . towards the prefiguration of
a society we would like to create.” Aronowitz veers not only from the tendency among some anarchists to abandon the state entirely, but also from their rejection of centralization. Like many of today’s anti- authoritarians, however, he understands centralization as a process of coordination: for the initiation and administration of an alternative press, the development of direct actions, and for interlinking local units engaged in struggles over everyday issues, like land use, health care, and education. According to Aronowitz, “It is not a question of having central organizations of power which dictate to the interme- diate and lower levels of organization what their strategy should be. But it does require the accumulation of human, financial and phys- ical resources of organization without which, in complex societies, effective interventions are next to impossible to make.” As such, he calls for a hybrid form of organization that takes from various tradi- tions of revolutionary thought: Marxism’s “deep respect for theoret- ical and strategic thinking,” utopians’ consideration of the “not yet,” and anarchists’ emphasis on autonomy and critique of illegitimate authority.
Political Parties in the Agm and the Wsf
Within the context of the AGM, the WSF was founded in part to per- form mediating functions among the mix of single-issue groups and local and regional social movements that essentially comprise the con- temporary global left. Advocates for the politicization of the WSF posi- tioned it as a grouping of civil society movements and organizations that banded together in order to influence the work of states, corpora- tions, and supranational financial institutions and make them more accountable to the public. This understanding of the WSF has served as a basis for a variety of proposals to bring the WSF constituents closer into the realm of mainstream politics. One such proposal, ini- tiated by the Network Institute for Global Democratization (NIGD), considered the WSF as a springboard for the launching of a global political party. The NIGD undertook an initiative to study the feasibil- ity of such a party, which involved extensive research and “dialogue” meetings convened alongside the polycentric WSFs. According to a draft report issued in April 2006, the NIGD group identified the need for a party to address or combat the following trends or issues: (1) the failures of representative democratic structures in various parts of the world; (2) the exclusion of political parties from events like the WSF and other networking venues usually populated by social movement
and NGO actors; (3) the increasing interest among European politi- cal actors to develop a pan-European political party, corresponding to the development of the European Union and its legislative bodies; and (4) new alliances among South American governments and the potential development of a pan-Latin American party. While the 150+ page document reflected a variety of opinions regarding the viability of such a party, a common theme among them was the desire to create some kind of centralized political formation that superseded existing electoral and legislative structures in terms of its democratic capacity. The NIGD proposal, and others like it, never really caught on among WSF constituents. Instead, a great deal of discussion focused on political parties’ influence on the WSF and whether they were co-opting it for electoral gain, despite their having been banned in the
WSF Charter of Principles:
The World Social Forum is a plural, diversified, non-confessional, non- governmental and non-party context that, in a decentralized fashion, interrelates organizations and movements engaged in concrete action at levels from the local to the international to build another world. (See appendix 1 for full text.)
The Charter allows individual party members and state officials to attend, but not as representatives of their respective states or parties (Gupta and Purkayastha, 2003). The rationale behind the ban was to secure the open character of the Forum and facilitate a process for the development of alternatives in which constituents could enter and participate as equals, without submission to any one political tendency, organization, or leadership. It was also aimed at enabling the construction of a new social formation not governed from above, one that could prefigure the radically democratic “other world” the Forum’s constituents sought to create.
While the open space paradigm is generally accepted among participants, the ban on parties remains an extremely contentious issue. One camp, comprised of political parties and their associates, see parties as potential collaborators in the construction of the “other world,” rather than threats. They laud parties, especially those of the orthodox persuasion, for participating in an event that poses a significant challenge to their ideological and organizational orienta- tion and requires them to accept more diverse sources of power than what their political platforms generally acknowledge (Wainright, 2004a). Moreover, while WSF organizers deny adherence to any one
tendency, party advocates point out that the choice to exclude par- ties reflects a particular political and strategic orientation, away from the project of seizing state power (Rahman, 2006). They disparage the WSF for putting forth the idea that “Another World is Possible,” while assuming that the “other world” would not include parties or that it could be built without them. Despite the ban, however, par- ties continue to participate in the WSF in fairly large numbers, and the general view among participants seems to be that its nonpartisan status does not negate the fact that parties still play a major role in the development of left politics, especially in Bolivia and Venezuela, as well as Brazil, where Lula and the PT have effectively established participatory democratic programs around the country (Evans, 2005; Wainright, 2004a).
The other camp, consisting of mostly autonomists and antiau- thoritarians, has contended that WSF organizers did not adequately enforce the ban, and in some cases, openly defied it to serve their polit- ical interests. Because of their financial, human, and electoral power resources, they argue, parties can exercise a great deal of control over the Forum, including its substantive content. In the case of the ESF, questions regarding the legitimacy of the War on Terror, the viability of the nation-state as an organizing principle for democracy, and the value of parliamentary forms of democracy, for example, were not part of the official program in 2002, despite the fact that questioning the legitimacy of parliamentary democracy forms an essential part of the Forum’s open space project (Farrer, 2002; Treanor, 2002). Critics also express concern that politicians will exploit the Forum for polit- ical gain, like when the PT used it to support electoral battles with Cardoso, or worse, when Chávez tried to legitimize his intent to shut- down anti-Chávez press by organizing a hearing on the Venezuelan media with ATTAC and several “big name” intellectuals and activists at the WSF (Vera-Zavala, 2002). They also argue that Chávez’s and Lula’s visits to the WSF have tended to draw media attention away from the WSF and their financial support has left the Forum vulner- able to political fluctuations, which was the root of its organizational failures in 2003 (Klein, 2003; Gupta, 2003).
the Partido Dos Trabalhadores in Brazil
The WSF was staged in Porto Alegre (PoA) in 2002, 2003, and 2005, and in Belém in 2009 largely because of the symbolic value of Brazil’s location in the Global South and the fact that the PT supported the
event. The PT or “Worker’s Party” first emerged in 1978 during fac- tory worker strikes at the Scania plant in São Paulo, but was formally founded in 1980, when Brazil did not have independent unions and autonomous political organizations were illegal. Amidst widespread dissatisfaction with the populist Brazilian Labor Party (PTB) and the failures of socialism in Eastern Europe more generally, the PT rep- resented a new kind of political organization that veered away from traditional Old Left models in Brazil. It viewed itself as a “reflex” of civil society groups and social movements, rather than a vanguard, and fostered “an open structure of ‘tendencies’ within the party that compete(d) internally to shape party positions and programs, but [came] together in electoral contests” (Baiocchi, 2004). The PT’s ver- sion of political organization also differed from typical electorally focused organizations in that it valued relationships with social move- ments and grassroots groups and understood that the legitimacy of the state was best secured through high levels of civic participation than through the tacit consent of an invisible electorate (ibid.).
In 1989, the PT formed the Popular Front, an electoral alliance with other left parties, and in the 1990s won mayoral seats in 36 cities (including PoA and São Paulo), such that 10 percent of all Brazilians were living in PT-run jurisdictions at the time (Baiocchi, 2001). The PT’s electoral success was based on its appeal to social movements and broad base of support among the country’s disadvantaged popu- lations, largely through its success in establishing participatory pro- grams. The participatory budget process, for example, invited popular participation in deciding how a portion of the budget within a specific locality would be administered. Technical training programs were established to reduce skill-related inequalities, level the playing field, and empower people to participate (ibid.).
The PT’s support base from social movements waned significantly since Lula’s election in 2003, because of his collusion with suprana- tional institutions like the IMF and failure to meet his goals for land reform. One percent of Brazil’s entire population controls roughly forty-five percent of the land, a drastic inequality that is one of the root causes of the country’s devastatingly large poverty rate. Although popular land reform movements in Brazil have been active for over 100 years, they were wiped out during the dictatorship in the 1970s and did not reemerge until the mid-1980s when the Brazilian Landless Rural Worker’s Movement (MST) began to fight for land reform. The MST applied significant pressure on the Brazilian state to take on a distributive role in land reform and as a result, won land for more than
400,000 families (Gilbert, 2006; Ramos, 2005). Lula’s critics contend that his National Plan for Agrarian Reform set “landless families at a slower pace than did his neoliberal predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso” (Ramos, 2005). In response to such retrograde policies, roughly 13,000 landless workers marched (200 km) to Brasília in May 2005 to demand that Lula implement his agrarian reform plan instead of paying off the national debt. Although Lula responded with a variety of promises, the march was confronted by police and 50 protestors were wounded. In addition to failures over land reform, Lula’s Zero Hunger program remains underfunded, along with other social programs sac- rificed to finance the foreign debt, and interest rates have risen to 19.50 percent. As a consequence, the MST held a convention at the 2009 WSF with presidents Morales, Chávez, Correa, and Lugo but explic- itly excluded Lula from participation because of his neoliberal policies. His exclusion was not readily apparent, however, since he did appear with the other four presidents at another meeting (Khaliq, 2009).
Against accusations from WSF participants that the PT was trying to co-opt the Forum, Gianpaolo Baiocchi points out that the party supported the Forum in its early years during a time when it was experiencing financial difficulty. While its support may have been based on a desire to augment its political visibility, especially outside Brazil, Baiocchi speculates that it was also a function of the PT’s com- mitment to participatory spaces as ends in themselves. He points to similar projects, such as the July 1990 “Foro de Sao Paulo,” cospon- sored by the PT and the Cuban government, as evidence of the PT’s interest in expanding its participatory practices (Baiocchi, 2004). Both Baiocchi and Peter Evans suggest that the PT may have viewed the WSF as a means for broadening the scope of its initially worker- centered agenda and changing the way typical left parties operate in Brazil. Moreover, the PT’s participatory programs have served as an important inspiration for the WSF and its participants—including antiauthoritarians—despite the failures of the Lula administration to challenge the international financial elite and remain responsive to its popular and social movement base. Addressing Michael Hardt’s anal- ysis of the multitude versus political parties, Evans (2005) defends the PT’s involvement in the WSF, asserting that “the multitude would not have a space to appropriate in the WSF were it not for the institutional resources” of the PT:
most in the multitude also realize that until a very different frame- work for globalization emerges, social justice struggles will have to go
through an institutional moment when the regulatory power of states will be called upon, and when “traditional” ’ actors like parties will need to act. Re-imagining the way that this relationship can look like, even while considering that it is full of contradictions is an urgent task in the current moment for those involved in demanding social justice.
Baiocchi (2004) echoes Evans’ point: given the participatory nature of the PT’s activities and the way it has related to social movements and civil society groups over the years, he asserts that “the distance between the party and the multitude may be a lot smaller than appears at first sight.” As for many social democrats both in and outside the AGM and WSF, they conceive of parties like the PT as playing a pivotal role in the long march through institutions, and regulatory measures by states as a means of stemming the tide of the neoliberal state.
Political Parties in Venezuela and Bolivia
Controversies over the involvement of political parties and state offi- cials in the WSF intensified during the 2006 Polycentric WSF, which was located in Caracas as a show of support for the newly reinstated president Hugo Chávez (Márquez, 2006b). The Caracas Forum was dominated by talk of Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution from the start: large assemblies took on a nationalist character (more often, pan-Latin American) and U.S. imperialism was a major theme across panels. In an interview with the BBC, Brazilian, Argentine, and Chilean participants reported that a third of the seminars and work- shops were focused on strategies of revolutionary change in Venezuela, contending that Chávez had “hijacked” the Forum (Morsbach, 2006). Organizers had attempted to avoid such a political takeover ahead of time by meeting with Chávez and clarifying the nonpartisan charac- ter of the event. He agreed to respect the parameters of the Charter and staged his two public addresses outside the official WSF. In front of the press and a massive audience, however, Chávez did not hesitate to comment on the political future of the WSF and urge participants and organizers to transform it from “folkloric” or “tourist” gathering to a political force: “In the face of the challenges from the empire,” he asserted, “there is no time to waste” (Márquez, 2006c).
Despite his critics in the Forum, most participants expressed their support of the Venezuelan president, especially his anti-Bush and anti-WTO and -IMF policies, and contrasted them to Lula’s relation- ship with the WEF and capitulations to the IMF. Chávez supporters
pointed to the variety of policies set in motion by his administration that bucked the authority of the international financial elite, and at the same time, aimed to redistribute government assets and admin- istration to the Venezuelan people. Agrarian reform, adult education programs, the proliferation of health centers around the country, and subsidized food outlets were also included in the list of programs they lauded (Márquez, 2006a).
Politically, the Chávez administration conceives of itself as a mass social movement for Venezuelan economic and political sovereignty, against the domination of the neoliberal state and supranational financial institutions. Chávez has used state power to foster self- sufficiency in terms of food, consumer items, and especially energy, and the equitable distribution of these resources, while pumping billions of oil revenues into social investment in Latin America and beyond (Alam, 2005). The election of Evo Morales in Bolivia signif- icantly bolstered these efforts as the two countries with the largest reserves of natural gas in the Western Hemisphere were now overseen by governments that had taken a hard turn to the left. Chávez and Morales formed alternative, “peoples” trade agreements and a pan- Latin American trade alliance, nationalized the natural gas and other industries in their respective countries, and lobbied for major consti- tutional changes that would delegate state resources and their man- agement to the people of the country. While the U.S. and Venezuelan business class and press represented such reforms as means of per- petuating Chávez’s power, they left out the fact that the proposals advocated for a system in which the presidency would be decided via popular vote. Other constitutional proposals focused on creating a “Social Stability Fund” to ensure basic rights for workers that included provisions for retirement, pensions, vacations, and the rest, and a country-wide reduction in the workday to six hours (Dimas, 2007).
Similar to Chávez, Morales has conceived of his administration as engaged in a “struggle for the right to life,” which involves basic income guarantees for young and elderly people, securing univer- sal access to water and food, education, and health care in Bolivia, against IMF control and the devastating exploitation of such resources by multinational corporations (ibid.). Prior to Morales’ election and the “water wars” in Bolivia, the country was besieged by IMF and World Bank privatization programs that drove up the price of water beyond the reach of the average person (Shultz, 2005). As a result of a popular uprising in Bolivia over the water crisis, as well as aid from Venezuela and the antidebt movement, Bolivia has now had much of
its debt cancelled and is no longer bound by agreements with the IMF. In turn, Bolivia is being sued by multinational corporations trying to recover profits they did not secure as a result of the nationalization of the country’s natural resources, but such cases are typically adju- dicated through the World Bank’s Internal Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and in May 2007, the Bolivian govern- ment withdrew from the ICSID (James and Benjamin, 2007).
* * *
The WSF’s relationship to political parties and states has been ana- lyzed and debated from a variety of standpoints. Political parties with limited (if any) electoral involvement (e.g., the SWP in Britain and other European, Indian, and Latin American socialist and com- munist parties) tend to position parties as playing a vital role in the development of an anticapitalist movement by providing tight-knit organization, a theoretical basis for understanding class struggle, and leadership to oversee the historical transition from capitalism to socialism. In some cases, they are able to mobilize large numbers of people for electoral contests or demonstrations and are generally adept at organizing at the grassroots level. They clash, however, with antiauthoritarian groups because of their hierarchical structure, the dark legacy of socialist and communist parties in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and the desire among today’s activists to create a new movement culture, free of orthodoxy. Nonetheless, these par- ties play an important role in the WSF and the global left: the SWP, ISO, and IAC have been extremely active in the global anti–Iraq War movement; the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation funded the German, European, and World Social Forums and supports research on their development (including research for this book), and many parties were active in supporting local and regional social forums, such as the case in Austria, France, Italy, Greece, and India as well as various countries in Latin America.
Distinct from the first group are state officials and political par- ties with broad electoral appeal that occupy central roles in state apparatuses (and in the WSF), such as in Brazil and Venezuela, and wield a high degree of political power. Social democrats in the Forum and governmental institutions like the GLA should also be included in this group because of their direct ties to states and elec- toral parties. Participants in the Forum, not just anarchists, have been critical of these groups’ involvement, but for the most part appear
ambivalent. On the one hand, activists at the WSF tend to view states as nonrepresentative and corrupt, and even left governments are accused of co-opting movements for political ends. On the other hand, WSF participants recognize the value not only of their support for the social forums, but of the broad variety of progressive policies and programs instituted in their respective countries that run counter to prevailing neoliberal social and economic models of development and political participation. The Brazilian PT, for example, enabled the development of participatory programs that would otherwise be unthinkable in other countries, and fair trade agreements and redis- tribution programs in Venezuela and Bolivia are providing models for other countries in the region struggling to cope with the effects of IMF policies on their economies. Along with masses of anti-Bush pro- testers, these leaders and their parties have effectively lead a charge to disrupt trade agreements like the Foreign Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in the region, as evinced during Bush’s visit to Argentina for the Summit of the Americas in November 2005 (Blanding, 2006).
The next chapter discusses a third perspective, consisting of those who do not privilege the state as a primary agent of social transfor- mation, but call for a radical rethinking of the dichotomy between “smashing” the state and seizing it. In particular, the chapter uses the case of the antimilitarism effort in Vieques to discuss the ways in which contemporary movements may relate to mainstream party and other political actors without sacrificing their autonomy, while creating new, transnational forms of citizenship not bound to the nation-state. The ways in which the Vieques movement navigated the rocky terrains of electoral, nationalist, and NGO politics; statehood and independence; and transnational migration and community sug- gests that institutions like political parties, and even some states, may indeed play an important part in organizing multitudes and shaping their political programs and also, more importantly, be challenged and transformed by them.
6. States and Movements
Between antistatists in the Alternative Globalization Movement (AGM) and World Social Forum (WSF) and advocacy groups and party and state actors who position the state as a key agent of social change are movements that emphasize the importance of political and cultural autonomy without dismissing states and the electoral sphere entirely. Many of these groups have followed the Latin American shift to the left with great interest and look to Brazil’s participatory budget process as a model for radical democracy. Others use states directly to bolster movement activity. In Italy, for example, roughly 50 percent of the social centers had entered into property agreements with local governments or private landowners by 1998 and many of them are supported by political parties, including the Green Party, Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), and the Christian Democratic Party (PdC). Otherwise, the centers would remain illegal squats in need of constant defense, which would leave little room for the other important activities they engage in.
The increasing importance of states for WSF and AGM participants is perhaps best epitomized in the writings of Naomi Klein. Following the 2003 WSF in Brazil, for example, Klein (2003) wrote a scathing critique of Lula and other “political strongmen” in which she recalled perceptions of him among WSF attendees as “an innovator whose party was at the forefront of developing tools for impoverished people to meet their own needs.” She explained, however, that despite his discourse about democracy and the empowerment of disenfranchised people, such issues were not a thematic focus of his presidential cam- paign; rather, “he told and retold a personal story about how voters could trust him because he came from poverty and knew their pain.” Moreover, she asserted, “standing up to the demands of the financial community isn’t about whether an individual is trustworthy, it’s about the fact that, as Lula is already proving, no person or party is strong
enough on its own” (ibid.). Klein’s essay reflects the predominant view among the movements and groups that make up the WSF—that elected officials and statesmen more often than not claim to repre- sent their people without understanding their everyday concerns and interests, and worse, tend to privilege already powerful groups and institutions that have the potential to secure their reelection. As dis- cussed in chapter 4, more fundamental critiques posit representation itself as problematic and argue for a politics that involves a minimal delegation of authority.
Four years after her “political strongmen” article appeared in the Nation, Klein (2007) wrote a piece in the same magazine that lauded the South American left for advances in the fight against neoliberal- ism. She cited Chávez’s support of workers’ cooperatives (100,000 employing 700,000 workers), an inter–Latin American free trade alternative known as the “Bolivian Alterative for the Americas,” and the construction of a continental “Bank of the South” to replace the IMF. This development in Klein’s work suggests that states can indeed adopt egalitarian social agendas and aid in resistance efforts against neoliberal institutions like the IMF and World Bank. One cannot ignore “the graveyard of failed left political projects,” to which Klein referred in 2003, epitomized in Nelson Mandella’s record after taking office in 1994, when “he instituted a massive program of privatiza- tion and structural adjustment that left millions of people homeless, jobless and without water and electricity” (Roy, 2004; Desai, 2002). Antiglobalist or not, however, it is becoming impossible to ignore the positive effects of the Latin American shift to the left: “In 2005 Latin America made up 80 percent of the IMF’s total lending portfolio; the continent now represents just 1 percent—a sea change in only two years” (Klein, 2007).
Michael Hardt discusses the sea change in different terms, one that really captures the divergence between autonomists and social democratic and party members both in and outside the AGM and WSF. He discusses today’s Empire as operating like a network that consists of a monarch and a team of aristocrats. In the metaphor, the monarch is the United States and global financial institutions like the IMF and WTO; the aristocrats are other nations, international insti- tutions like the UN, and NGOs on which the monarch depends to “finance its wars and pay its debts,” among other things. The impor- tant point here is that all states are part and parcel of Empire, regard- less of their political leanings or policies, and while none of them can challenge the United States on its own, in coalition they can exercise
significant influence. Nations like Venezuela, for example, may chal- lenge the United States and make substantive advances for its peo- ple, but the Chávez or Morales state must still be understood as part of Empire. This relationship also holds true for the army of NGOs throughout the world.
For Hardt, “aristocratic” states and organizations should never be mistaken as democratic institutions, but they can open political space for democracy to emerge from below, and from alternative, independent formations like the social forums. Indeed, the case of the Vieques antimilitarism effort discussed below demonstrates how movements can use state and party actors, and even engage nation- alist discourses, while moving beyond technicist, disembodied forms of resistance characteristic of liberal democratic NGOs and the sov- ereigntist agendas of parties and states. Michael Menser (2009) theo- rizes this tendency as a “disarticulation” of states, in which states, often following moments of insurrection, delegate control over public goods and services to democratic management by the people. Similar to Menser’s examples—the Bolivian water wars and Argentina’s recuperated factories—the Vieques movement involved contests over access to basic resources, in this case land that had been culti- vated by the island’s peasant population for many decades. While the movement found itself in the middle of struggles over statehood and Puerto Rican electoral politics, its successes lie in its ability to move beyond these categories through the use of direct action techniques of resistance and construction of an organic, transnational community rooted in a shared experience of dispossession.
the Antimilitarism Movement in
Vieques, Puerto Rico1
Vieques is a small island-municipality of Puerto Rico that was occupied by the U.S. Navy for over 60 years. Following the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the acquisition of Puerto Rico, the U.S. govern- ment replaced the Spaniards’ government with a military adminis- tration, disregarding the quest for self-determination by anti-Spanish resistance movements. The military occupation of Puerto Rico set the stage for a mode of domination that could be defined as “imperial- ism without colonialism,” aimed at securing military outposts along major trade routes and exploiting local resources, rather than build- ing local administrative apparatuses characteristic of colonial states
(Magdoff, 2003). Uncommon in such colonial dependencies, the 1917 Jones Act granted U.S. citizenship to Puerto Rican residents, provided for a Puerto Rican Bill of Rights, and established a representative local government and bicameral legislation whose decisions could nonethe- less be vetoed by the president of the United States. The appointment of governors was initially confirmed by the U.S. president under the 1900 Foraker Act, a 1947 amendment to the Jones Act provided for the election of governors by universal suffrage, and in 1952, Puerto Rico’s autonomy was partially recognized with the establishment of the Commonwealth.
While this trajectory reinforced popular myths about the United States as a “reluctant empire,” U.S. government officials revealed their colonialist disposition in racist and paternalist terminology that identified Puerto Ricans as “a subject race in need of guardianship, tutelage and democratic mentorship” (Barreto, 2002). Moreover, the exploitation of sugar plantations by the Spanish was reinforced under
U.S. occupation in a way that largely benefited U.S. sugar refiner- ies, while severely inhibiting Puerto Rican growers’ and local cof- fee planters’ ability to compete on the global market. Ownership of the land remained highly concentrated, and in the 1920s, four U.S. corporations controlled half of the island’s sugar production, while the number of landless peasants continued to swell. During this period, thousands of Puerto Ricans were recruited to serve in the U.S. Army in various wars, largely on a conscription basis.
In the 1930s, military presence on the island increased exponen- tially as a result of the strategic imperative to protect routes to the Panama Canal. Thousands of acres of land were expropriated to build military installations, and in the case of Vieques, the military appro- priated two-thirds of the island. With the onset of World War II,
U.S. military deployment in Puerto Rico was stepped up in an effort to make the island a “Pearl Harbor of the Caribbean.” At the same time, large sections of the nearby island of Culebra, and later, Vieques, were used as training grounds and shooting ranges for the U.S. Navy and its North Atlantic Treaty Organizations (NATO) allies. While the rhetoric of individual liberties manifest in the granting of limited civil and political citizenship rights for Puerto Ricans, these develop- ments were abstracted from many Puerto Ricans’ life conditions, and thereby failed to address the unremitting disempowerment, economic expropriation, and racialized subordination they suffered.
Puerto Rico’s peculiar position as a “nonincorporated territory” of the United States and the colonial structures that underpinned these
relationships stimulated the emergence of various strands of nationalist politics, split between independentistas that argued for Puerto Rican national sovereignty and those that sought full incorporation as a state in the Union. Independentistas were effectively marginalized as an elec- toral force, first because the repression that followed the rise of Pedro Albizu Campos’ Nationalist Party led to violent confrontations that were used by the U.S. government to criminalize pro-independencia ideas and imprison radical Puerto Rican nationalists; and second, because the creation of Commonwealth status in 1952 addressed the demands of more moderate nationalists, such as the Populist Democratic Party of Puerto Rico (PPD), whose leader, Muñoz Marín, became the first elected governor of Puerto Rico in 1948. These developments marked an important turning point in Puerto Rican politics in that they helped make nationalist movements part of the local political establishment, but the rise of the prostatehood New Progressive Party (PNP) in the late 1960s confirmed the polarization in mainstream Puerto Rican pol- itics and the marginalization of the independentista represented by the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP). During this period, the United States supported the moderates through economic development pro- grams that helped “contain” communism after the Cuban Revolution of 1959, presented as integral to the promotion of democratic ideals and as justification for continued military presence.
These interlinked factors were explicitly elaborated under Operation Bootstrap, which was aimed at making Puerto Rico a showcase for cap- italist, democratic development vis-à-vis Castro’s Cuba. The economic component of Operation Bootstrap was based on massive investment in infrastructure and capital intensive manufacturing for which Puerto Rico became a laboratory for the kind of export-oriented industrializa- tion that the United States would later sponsor in the repressive regimes of East Asia. At the same time, the formation of a local working class out of the landless proletariat, which could have become a source for radical politics, was prevented by the very nature of capitalist develop- ment in the area: Operation Bootstrap ushered in a massive migration of Puerto Ricans as cheap labor in urban centers on the mainland United States or to fight in U.S. wars in Korea and Vietnam. The outflow of more than 600,000 Puerto Ricans to the United States between 1940 and 1960, mainly low-skilled, low-wage rural labor, meant that Puerto Rico’s class composition was “cleared” of its proletarian elements.
The experience of the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States reflected and enabled a redefinition of national identities and the emergence of forms of “cultural nationalism” to withstand the
harsh social and economic conditions of the ghettos. Ideas of Puerto Ricanness that were part of the ideological baggage of most of the elites now governing the islands, most notably personified in the pro-Commonwealth position of defending the authenticity of Puerto Rican culture, became the target of substantial disillusionment. In fact, the mainstream nationalist discourse belied the complicity of its own proponents in policies that facilitated the subordination of the very people on behalf of whom this discourse was uttered. These contradictions contributed to a Puerto Rican nationalism character- ized not so much by the idea of “national liberation” as witnessed in anticolonial struggles in the “developing” world, but rather, by the construction of a transnational Puerto Rican identity that appropri- ated elements of Puerto Rican culture to create a hybrid identity pre- dominantly responsive to conditions experienced within the United States (Negron-Muntaner, 1997).
Nowhere else in Puerto Rico have the colonial features of economic exploitation been more apparent than in Vieques. The island has been historically dependant on sugarcane production, and patterns of land ownership have left most peasants in conditions of extreme poverty. In the decade preceding the Navy’s takeover in 1940, 95 percent of the rural population was landless and two sugar corporations controlled 71 percent of the land (McCaffrey, 2002). The Vieques municipality has always been among the poorest in Puerto Rico, and in 1935, it had the highest male unemployment rate in the territory. Migration to St. Croix, whose economy was also based on sugarcane, rapidly became a major source of income for Vieques residents to the extent that the island’s complete depopulation was considered a realistic prospect by the end of the 1930s.
During the 1930s, the social relations of production on the land were still characterized by the agrego system. The agregados were landless peasants who lived on the sugar plantations exchanging diverse forms of labor for limited use of the land, without property rights. Initially defined as crop-sharing or labor-sharing agreements, agrego relations came to be increasingly mediated by a monetary wage, and the agrega- dos became a rural working class whose residence on the land depended entirely on the landowner’s will. Despite the precarious nature of this relationship, agregados were attached to the land by way of subsis- tence activities, such as fishing and the gathering of food crops and wood, in addition to cultivating their own small plots (ibid.). To further complicate the situation, plantation owners often imported jornalero migrants as seasonal workers from the Puerto Rican mainland.
In 1942, the Puerto Rican legislature gave two-thirds of the island to the U.S. Navy to be used as a military base for its fleet. A large portion of the population of Vieques was relocated to a narrow, bar- ren strip of land in the center of the island, without ownership titles. Military occupation and the associated expropriations accelerated the decline of the sugar-based economy, which not only deepened Viequenses’ impoverished conditions, but also dealt a fatal blow to agrego sustenance relations. Economic development programs on the mainland of Puerto Rico bypassed Vieques, which was also politically marginalized in Puerto Rican politics, at least for the time being.
The Navy’s arrival in Vieques was part of a larger plan to estab- lish a military complex in Puerto Rico that connected the main island with the eastern islands of Culebra and Vieques. Once World War II came to a close, the Navy refused to return the expropriated land to its inhabitants, and in 1947, more land was expropriated. In the meantime, the population of Vieques dropped from 10,000 to 7,000, spurring discussion of a mass relocation of all Vieques residents to St. Croix. The social impact of the expropriation was devastating. While landowners received monetary compensation by the acre, agre- gados were handed a miniscule lump sum for their homes and belong- ings that in no way could compensate for the loss of their subsistence activities. The whole process, in fact, was conducted in repressive and often brutal ways. Evictions could take place at 24-hour notice, homes were bulldozed, and inhabitants forcibly expelled.
The Navy’s 1947 strategic plan for Vieques was to use the island as a training installation, fuel depot, and bombing range. Early resis- tance movements against the military occupation of the island were largely articulated as a defense of the local community and culture. In the 1950s and 1960s, this message was predominantly voiced by figures in the local government, but in the 1970s grassroots mobiliza- tion started to grow, especially among Vieques’ fishermen communi- ties. It is important to note that many Viequenses were not opposed to the Navy’s presence in the first decades of the occupation. Faced with the century-long economic and social decay of the island, the Navy represented a lesser evil or even a promise of economic devel- opment and investment. Events in the nearby island of Culebra, how- ever, played an important role in changing this general disposition. Heavy bombing severely damaged Culebra’s small island community, and in the 1970s, residents expressed their opposition in overtly anti- Navy, anticolonial terms. The subsequent decision by the Navy to suspend exercises on Culebra led to intensified bombing on Vieques,
thereby aggravating the already desperate plight of Viequenses. In addition, mainstream political parties in Vieques became more antag- onistic toward the U.S. military for easing restrictions for air force exercises, and even participated in protests in San Juan. More impor- tantly, Vieques’ own fishermen were politicized, which helped trans- form widespread resentment into community action.
Vieques’ fishermen were especially affected by the land expropria- tions and environmental devastation associated with the bombings, which threatened their economic resources and community life. In the context of intensified military presence, politically moderate fisher- men cooperatives became a vehicle for political activism; their direct action tactics were at the center of resistance both in the 1978 “fisher- men’s war” and subsequent waves of mobilization. These early efforts at organizing, however, were frustrated by the encroachment of main- stream party politics. While the opposition to the Navy occupation spanned the entire political spectrum, politicians would later turn the issue into a polarized debate about Viequenses’ patriotism and alle- giance to the United States, a polarization that allowed radical ele- ments to be branded as communist agitators and effectively dissolved the movement. While the fishermen emphasized the cultural and symbolic dimensions of the struggle, rooted in popular outrage over the destruction of forms of life that depended on access to common resources, grand narratives of Puerto Rican nationalism (including the independentistas) and U.S. patriotism, far from building solidar- ity, proved to be disabling and divisive for the Vieques community.
The economic development and environmental rehabilitation plan, known as the Fortín Accord, signed in 1983 by the Navy and the Commonwealth government, was hailed as a solution to the island’s problems. The Navy’s presence was accepted in exchange for its com- mitment to improve economic conditions, but its subsequent failure to act accordingly triggered periodic waves of opposition. The 16 years that followed were characterized by an undercurrent of activism that occasionally erupted in direct confrontations with the Navy. Notable was the 1989 movement for land reappropriation known as “land res- cue,” which was conducted by the Crusade to Rescue Vieques (CRV), an organization born within the fishermen’s movement of 1978. Even though the “land rescue” campaign rapidly devolved into land pros- pecting, this phase symbolized a new way of organizing based on occupation and resistance against evictions.
In 1993, the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques (CPRDV) was formed, whose aim was to build a broad-based
movement. The initial avoidance of direct confrontation tactics by the Committee sheltered it from accusations of anti-Americanism that plagued the CRV. Its emergence signaled a new style of politi- cal activism in the region that remained detached from broader ideo- logical diatribes around sovereignty and was more open to building coalitions and communities at the grassroots level. Moreover, the CPRDV continued the tradition of cultural activism initiated by the fishermen’s revolt and used symbols of past expropriations to build a shared imagery and discourse that helped shape the community’s sense of abuse and outrage. Together with local cultural institutions, for example, the CPRDV organized an excursion to the sites of the old sugar centrales, factories that represented the autonomous social structure that existed prior to the Navy’s occupation.
Even if the fishermen were no longer the central social protago- nists of the movement, their legacy and portrayal as legendary heroes of the struggle in a “David versus Goliath” fashion—picture them in small rowboats alongside massive Navy warships—captured the pop- ular imagination in Vieques, the Puerto Rican mainland, and abroad. Moreover, environmental problems emerged in this period as a central concern that linked Vieques to the broad-based environmental move- ment. According to a submission by a different civil society and reli- gious organizations to the UN Commission on Human Rights, during the 60 years of military occupation the residents of Vieques lived downwind from targets that were bombed up to 200 days per year. Weapons used included napalm, Agent Orange, chemical weapons, and, since 1999, by admission of the U.S. government, depleted ura- nium. Toxic particles and debris contaminated the drinking water, air, and soil. Levels of pollution of carcinogenic substances such as cad- mium, arsenic, and lead exceed legal limits by percentages that range between 100 and 200 percent. As of 2003, people in Vieques suffer from diseases such as cancer, scleroderma, lupus, thyroid deficiencies, and asthma, far in excess of the rest of Puerto Rico, and infant mortal- ity is 55 percent higher (Dominicans for Justice and Peace, 2003).
On April 19, 1999 during a training session, two bombs went acci- dentally off course, killing David Sanes Rodríguez, a Puerto Rican security guard employed by the Navy. The event caused a massive uproar both on Vieques and the Puerto Rican mainland, and was followed by a campaign of civil disobedience in which residents acted as human shields, and encampments were built on the bomb- ing range. The mobilization halted military exercises for more than a year. Meanwhile, the Clinton administration began inquiries into
the Navy’s presence on the island and the Puerto Rican government adopted a political stance that favored the Navy’s withdrawal. The question of Vieques gained unprecedented visibility; on July 4, 1999, for example, 50,000 people marched on the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Ceiba, and on February 21, 2000, between 85,000 and 150,000 demonstrators staged the “Peace for Vieques” march in San Juan. On November 6, 2000, Vieques Libre hung a “Free Vieques” banner alongside the Vieques and Puerto Rican flags from the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
The widening of protest also catalyzed one of the most conserva- tive sectors of the Puerto Rican society, the churches. Traditionally enmeshed in party politics, the churches were drawn into the political opposition to the Navy by the outrage following Sanes’ death and by the increasing amount of information being made available about the impacts of the bombing on the environmental health of Vieques. Religious leaders began to identify Vieques as a global human rights issue. For example, in 1999—when prostatehood Governor Rosselló signed an agreement with U.S. President Clinton that authorized the continuation of bombing after a one-year pause in exchange for mon- etary compensation—church leaders denounced it as immoral and an “abuse of power.” Since Rosselló had at one point championed the anti-Navy position, the agreement was viewed by most as a betrayal and indicative of an unbridgeable divide that separated the move- ment from mainstream nationalist politics in San Juan. At the same time, the churches provided a renewed legitimacy to civil disobedi- ence, in its nonviolent variant, among large strata of the civil society (Barreto, 2002).
Perhaps the most significant discontinuity with past waves of resis- tance was the linkage established between the struggle in Vieques and the Puerto Rican diaspora on the U.S. mainland. The experience of Puerto Ricans in the United States has always been shaped by a politics of exclusion that reflects and reinforces the poor living condi- tions of many Puerto Ricans. Puerto Ricans, especially in New York, have gravitated toward the Democratic Party, but their political iden- tities have largely been shaped by the social and economic problems experienced at the community level. The radical social movements that emerged among later generations of Puerto Ricans in the United States during the 1960s, such as the Young Lords Party, blended Puerto Rican independentista nationalism with influences from the Black Panthers, and civil rights and antiwar movements. In the case of Vieques, the diaspora continued to reinforce the construction of Puerto Ricanness as a condition of a colonized people, rather than
as inhabitants of a nation identified with a specific territory, thereby exceeding the terms of resistance and representation imposed by tra- ditional party politics.
The fact that the movement in Vieques successfully challenged Navy operations immediately following Sanes’ death and forced the
U.S. government to negotiate solutions (while arresting activists) prob- ably contributed to the increasing interest with which Puerto Ricans in the United States, even those with no radical background, viewed the struggle in Vieques. Vieques represented a common grievance of all Puerto Ricans who did not fit within the U.S. government’s con- venient image of them as divided over political allegiances associated with the status question. In fact, the linkage between Vieques and the diaspora acted in much more complex ways. On the one hand, it helped to frame the discourse of resistance in national terms, bring- ing to the fore the latent Otherness that constituted Puerto Rican relations with the United States. On the other hand, this nationally framed discourse exceeded the idea of the nation as a territorially bound identity. This element is what ultimately facilitated solidarity between the anti-Navy movement in Vieques and other antimilitarist movements couched in nationalist terms, such as those in Hawaii, South Korea, and the Netherlands.
On April 2003, the U.S. Navy announced its withdrawal from Vieques amidst a generalized political opposition that by then had come to include prominent figures in the broad U.S. left. Episodes like the imprisonment of Al Sharpton for 90 days for civil disobedience, the involvement of prominent Puerto Rican celebrities like Ricky Martin and Rosie Perez, and the multimillion dollar class action law- suit started by the John A. Eaves law firm on behalf of 55 Vieques cancer patients added to the embarrassment of the U.S. government and made the presence of the Navy indefensible. The announcement signaled a glowing victory for the antimilitary movement, but one that has proven bittersweet: Most of the territory occupied by the Navy was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Viequenses were still denied access to more than half of their land. Moreover, much of the island remained severely contaminated from the bomb- ing, its waters littered with live ordinance, and inhabitants steeped in legal battles over clean-up and health-related compensation.
* * *
The technicist, neoliberal approach to the Navy’s legacy in Vieques is a repetition of existing patterns of domination that define life as
an abstract, biological entity, whose protection or expropriation is decided by the powers of the state. As neoliberalism posits individu- als as self-managed “autonomous” citizens-consumers, it also anni- hilates or renders illegitimate forms of life that cannot or will not be converted into its framework. In this regard, it depoliticizes social life into a series of individual pursuits and cost-benefit analyses, rather than toward ideas of the good life as collectively defined. The Vieques movement demonstrates, however, that material life is an articula- tion of sensuous relations and emotional attachments that ultimately exceed such abstractions and find grounding in struggles over collec- tive life and representation.
The Vieques movement did not ultimately reacquire the expropri- ated land, but it did successfully contest a political and discursive field of “citizenship” whose construction within the U.S. govern- ment’s discourse of rights disempowered Viequenses, while stifling radical voices within Puerto Rican politics. Conversely, the focus on the reappropriation of land and the practice of squatting provided the movement with an alternative citizenship discourse that chal- lenged the legalistic construction of rights. Even when the struggle was couched in a rights-based discourse, it tested the limits of legality and Viequenses’ rights could be affirmed only through the exercise of collective power and direct action. At the same time, this new citizen- ship discourse and practice was linked to a redefinition of the politi- cal community away from the territorially bounded nation. Although the imagery of the movement and of solidarity within the diaspora remained unquestionably “national” in character, they nonetheless built an open, borderless political community among Puerto Ricans and other movements besieged by military occupation based on a common experience of expropriation, rather than on the myth of the nation.
The World Social Forum (WSF) has been particularly successful, especially in its earlier years, in bringing together people from a broad variety of social and ideological backgrounds and complementing the Alternative Globalization Movement (AGM) and antiwar protest efforts with the construction of an open venue for discussing institu- tional alternatives to neoliberalism. Along with the AGM, the WSF has fostered the same kind of network-building and transnational- ization of antineoliberal projects that enabled the people of Vieques and Chiapas to articulate their struggles in broad terms, as resistance against the globalization of military violence and neoliberalism. While the development of alternative social and economic structures and political institutions may be an overly ambitious charge for such a large and unwieldy event, the WSF continues to play an important role in promoting the belief that another, nonneoliberal world is pos- sible and convening large numbers of people dedicated to the cause.
The WSF has also served as a laboratory for the development of a new, radically democratic form of organization called the “open space,” in which groups and movements of “civil society” can social- ize, network, and develop their respective projects without having to adhere to a central body or political line. For WSF organizers, the “openness” of the space was secured by banning political parties and militant groups from direct participation and preventing the Forum from becoming a deliberative body. The nondeliberative character of the open space reflects organizers’ assumption that the political diversity of its participants precludes the WSF’s potential to act as a political unit, and that undertaking collective deliberative and action- oriented functions necessarily involves centralization, leadership, and hierarchy—that deliberative activities are likely to violate constituents’ autonomy and undermine the integrity of the WSF’s democratic pro- gram. Struggles over the concept of openness defined in the Charter reflect an important tension among today’s movements concerned
with prefiguring a free, egalitarian society and interested in meeting the organizational requisites for fundamental social change. The polit- ical tensions among WSF constituents discussed in this text and the radically different ways in which they approach the janus-faced prob- lem of organization and autonomy suggest alternative notions of open- ness with which the WSF could experiment and adapt in the future.
Despite claims that the WSF open space operates as an apolitical, strictly social milieux, this text considered it as a mode of political organization involving organizational strategies and theories of change in conflict with the political orientations of many of its constituents. It also identified ways in which the conception of the open space reflected in the Charter of Principles in some respects runs counter to the WSF’s antineoliberal project. The Forum’s emphasis on “civil society,” for example, assumes the possibility of a democratic, independent sphere in which nongovernmental groups can construct alternatives outside the influence of states, militant movements, and market forces—an identity that essentially moves the WSF away from the more funda- mental project of waging an anticapitalist resistance and imagining and constructing entirely new and more egalitarian social and political systems. As chapter 3 demonstrates, a significant portion of the WSF constituency remains critical of so-called civil society actors’ involve- ment in the Forum because many of the NGOs that attend operate hierarchically with strong ties to states and corporations, and do not employ antineoliberal, let alone antiauthoritarian or anticapitalist, programs. Many lobbyist NGOs elevate states as ultimate authorities over social life and guarantors of freedom and social welfare, rather than focus on redirecting power and self-determination to everyday people. In some cases, they have undermined AGM activities by being openly critical of direct action protesters, especially those engaging in property destruction, driven by fear of alienating their funders or compromising key political relationships. Furthermore, as critics con- tend, the self-organized nature of the WSF replicates aspects of laissez- faire and, perhaps inadvertently, privileges NGOs, which tend to be better funded and organized than grassroots groups and have greater access to resources, such as travel funds and advertising tools.
In addition to participants’ claims of depoliticization and “NGO takeover,” liberals and social democrats in the WSF posit civil society as a priori space of democratic freedom, a view that sharply differs from that of Marxist and anarchist participants. Marxists argue that civil society has become an extension of the neoliberal, capitalist state, pointing to the World Bank’s appropriation of the concept as a way to
claim humanitarian aims while undermining grassroots, trade union, and militant movements. The WSF’s identity as a conduit of civil soci- ety also diverges from anarchist and autonomist thought, which tends to posit a collapse of political and civil society in which mainstream social and political institutions produce disciplined, normalized sub- jects in accordance with neoliberal state and market logics.
Alternative conceptions of openness have emerged from some of the grassroots groups and antiauthoritarian movements discussed earlier, such as the Argentine Assemblies, DAN, and Vieques antimilitarism movement. While the Argentine and Vieques movements focused on specific, local problems that could be understood in global terms, the Direct Action Network (DAN) more closely resembled the WSF in that it was less oriented toward some ideal state of affairs or support for a specific project than about linking diverse groups and enabling stable relationships among them. For contemporary movements and activist projects, networks have become the prevalent mode of organization precisely because they enable participation of large numbers of het- erogeneous actors and can function effectively (in protest situations and beyond) without necessarily compromising the autonomy of each. DAN’s openness differed from that of the WSF in that it used con- sensus decision-making processes to prevent any one group or orga- nizational body from implicitly or explicitly controlling the network and its structure consisted of autonomous groups that acted as nodes in the larger, organized federation, rather than employing centralized organizing and oversight committees. Unlike the WSF open space, which reflects a kind of faith in spontaneous interconnection, DAN used direct democratic procedures to create a noncoercive climate of open participation, and, similar to the participatory budget process in Brazil, staged workshops and meetings for capacity-building in order to foster the direct involvement of its constituents. Each member of the network was encouraged to participate in discussions and deci- sion making on a relatively equal basis, guided by an ethic of coop- eration and noncompetition. As such, DAN could involve members of political parties and militant groups without much concern for co-optation, just as long as each participant abided by the “points of unity” established by the group. Unlike the WSF Charter of Principles, these “points” were democratically decided and subject to change.
Other instances of radical democratic practices among antineolib- eral movements—Brazil’s participatory budget or the Bolivian and Costa Rican struggles over water and electricity—involved the appro- priation of elements of state function by social movements rather than
positioning the state as a focal point of political activity through lob- bying, confronting it directly through prolonged violence, or attempt- ing to create a “public” sphere. In Vieques, the movement focused on reappropriating the land and made use of squatting and direct action to develop an alternative practice of citizenship that challenged the state-centric, legalistic construction of rights. This new form of citi- zenship helped define a transnational political community based on a common experience of expropriation in which politicians and their parties were involved, but could only play a supporting role.
The ultimate charge of the WSF is to provide a space for the devel- opment of social and political alternatives to neoliberal globalization and identify mechanisms for realizing them. Over the span of nine years, umpteen proposals for alternatives have been offered—from the Porto Alegre Consensus to the Bamako Appeal to Alliances Day in Belém—but the Forum has failed, for the most part, to facilitate the interconnections necessary for achieving them; that is, it has failed to address the controversial problem of agency. The “feel good,” festival- like character and loose framework of the event, in which groups and movements remain uncoerced but essentially “on their own,” have contributed to impressions that the WSF has become “an end in itself” rather than a conduit of transnational activism. Moreover, as Jo Freeman pointed out in reference to the New Left, openness as structurelessness not only disables democratic participation, it allows informal hierarchies and power inequalities to flourish. Such inequalities in the WSF have been a subject of continued criticism, from Indymedia’s marginalization in 2003 to accusations of NGO takeover in Karachi and Nairobi to the high level of media attention paid to statesmen and parties at the WSFs in Venezuela, Porto Alegre, and Belém. Rather than conceive of openness as freedom from struc- ture and political involvement, why not understand organization as a mechanism for building affinity among disparate groups, enabling them to debate their differences, and collectively find ways to artic- ulate their desires for change and act on them? After all, developing such alternatives and building functional forms of grassroots democ- racy are an incredibly tall and pressing order, whether or not we are witnessing “the death of neoliberalism.” Developing a noncoercive, “open” climate for this work means fostering radically democratic participation, which, in turn, requires some structure and training, a lot of practice, and an abundance of good faith.
AAAS American Association for the Advancement of Science
ABONG Associação Brasiliera de Organizações Não Governamentais (Brazilian Association of Nongovernmental Organizations)
AGM Alternative Globalization Movement AIG American International Group ANSWER Act Now to Stop War and Racism AOA Agreement on Agriculture
ATTAC Association pour la Taxation des Transactions pour l’Aide aux Citoyens (Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for Assistance to Citizens)
CAFTA Central America Free Trade Agreement
CEI Centre d’Etudes Industrielles (Center for Industrial Studies) CGIL Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (Italian General
Confederation of Labor)
CIVES Associação Brasiliera de Empresários pela Cidadania (Brazilian Business Association for Citizenship)
CNT Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labor)
CPI(M) Communist Party of India (Marxist)
CPRDV Comité Pro Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieques (Committee to Rescue and Develop Vieques)
CRA Community Reinvestment Act
CRV Crusade to Rescue Vieques
CUT Central Única dos Trabalhadores (Unique Workers Center) DAN Direct Action Network
DSF Durban Social Forum
ELF Earth Liberation Front
ESF European Social Forum
EZLN Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army of National Liberation)
FAG Federacao Anarquista do Gaucha (Anarchist Federation of Gaucha)
FAI Federación Anarquista Ibérica (Iberian Anarchist Federation) FARC Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Columbia)
FNB Food Not Bombs
FTAA Free Trade Area of the Americas FTAs Free Trade Agreements
G8 Group of 8
GLA Greater London Authority
GLAD Space Towards the Globalization of Disobedient Struggles and Actions
GONGO Government-organized Nongovernmental Organizations GSE Government-sponsored Enterprise
IAC International Action Center
IC International Council
IBASE Instituto Brasiliero de Analises Socias e Econômicas (The Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analyses)
ICSID International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes IGC India General Council
ILPS International League of Peoples’ Struggles IMF International Monetary Fund
INGO International Nongovernmental Organizations ISM International Solidarity Movement
ISO International Socialist Organization
IST International Socialist Tendency IWW Industrial Workers of the World IYC International Youth Camp
JKLF Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front LAC Life After Capitalism
LSE London School of Economics
MAS Movimiento al Socialismo (Movement for Socialism) MI Metropolitan Indians
MR Mumbai Resistance
MSF Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders)
MST Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Landless Workers Movement)
MVR Movimiento V [Quinta] República (Fifth Republic Movement) NAFTA North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization NGO Nongovernmental organization
NIGD Network Institute for Global Democratization NRDC Natural Resources Defense Council
OECD Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development OFHEO Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight
OPEC Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries PB Participatory Budget
PCI Partito Comunista Italiano (Italian Communist Party) PdC Partito dei Comunisti (Party of Italian Communism) PDS Party of Democratic Socialism (Germany)
PGA Peoples Global Action
PIP Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño (Puerto Rican Independence Party)
PNP Partido Nuevo Progresista (New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico)
PoA Porto Alegre
PPD Partido Popular Democrático (Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico)
PRC Partito della Rifondazione Comunista (Communist Refoundation Party)
PSTU Partido Socialista Dos Trabalhadores Unificado (Unified Socialist Workers Party)
PT Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers Party)
PTB Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (Brazilian Labor Party) PUC Pontifical Catholic University
QUANGO Quasi-nongovernmental Organization RSDLP Russian Social Democratic Labor Party SDS Students for a Democratic Society SMWN Social Movement World Network
SPD Social Democratic Party
SWP Socialist Workers Party
TAN Transnational Advocacy Networks TAZ Temporary Autonomous Zone TSMs Transnational Social Movements
UFPA Universidade Federal do Pará (Federal University of Pará) UFPJ United for Peace and Justice
UFRA Universidade Federal Rural da Amazônia (Federal Rural University of Amazonia)
UN United Nations
UNDP United Nations Development Program UPS United Parcel Service of America
WEF World Economic Forum
WSF World Social Forum
WTO World Trade Organization
Appendix 1. The World Social Forum Charter of Principles1
The committee of Brazilian organizations that conceived of, and organized, the first World Social Forum, held in Porto Alegre from January 25 to 30, 2001, after evaluating the results of that Forum and the expectations it raised, considers it necessary and legitimate to draw up a Charter of Principles to guide the contin- ued pursuit of that initiative. While the principles contained in this Charter—to be respected by all those who wish to take part in the process and to organize new editions of the World Social Forum—are a consolidation of the decisions that presided over the holding of the Porto Alegre Forum and ensured its success, they extend the reach of those decisions and define orientations that flow from their logic.
1. The World Social Forum is an open meeting place for reflective think- ing, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences, and interlinking for effective action, by groups and move- ments of civil society that are opposed to neoliberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to building a planetary society directed toward fruitful relationships among Humankind and between it and the Earth.
2. The World Social Forum at Porto Alegre was an event localized in time and place. From now on, in the certainty proclaimed at Porto Alegre that “another world is possible,” it becomes a permanent process of seeking and building alternatives, which cannot be reduced to the events supporting it.
3. The World Social Forum is a world process. All the meetings that are held as part of this process have an international dimension.
4. The alternatives proposed at the World Social Forum stand in opposition to a process of globalization commanded by the large multinational corpora- tions and by the governments and international institutions at the service of those corporations’ interests, with the complicity of national governments. They are designed to ensure that globalization in solidarity will prevail as a new stage in world history. This will respect universal human rights, and
those of all citizens—men and women—of all nations and the environ- ment and will rest on democratic international systems and institutions at the service of social justice, equality, and the sovereignty of peoples.
5. The World Social Forum brings together and interlinks only organiza- tions and movements of civil society from all the countries in the world, but intends not to be a body representing world civil society.
6. The meetings of the World Social Forum do not deliberate on behalf of the World Social Forum as a body. No one, therefore, will be authorized, on behalf of any of the editions of the Forum, to express positions claim- ing to be those of all its participants. The participants in the Forum shall not be called on to take decisions as a body, whether by vote or acclama- tion, on declarations or proposals for action that would commit all, or the majority, of them and that propose to be taken as establishing positions of the Forum as a body. It thus does not constitute a locus of power to be disputed by the participants in its meetings, nor does it intend to consti- tute the only option for interrelation and action by the organizations and movements that participate in it.
7. Nonetheless, organizations or groups of organizations that participate in the Forum meetings must be assured the right, during such meetings, to deliberate on declarations or actions they may decide on, whether singly or in coordination with other participants. The World Social Forum undertakes to circulate such decisions widely by the means at its disposal, without directing, hierarchizing, censuring, or restricting them, but as deliberations of the organizations or groups of organizations that made the decisions.
8. The World Social Forum is a plural, diversified, nonconfessional, nongov- ernmental, and nonparty context that, in a decentralized fashion, inter- relates organizations and movements engaged in concrete action at levels from the local to the international to build another world.
9. The World Social Forum will always be a forum open to pluralism and to the diversity of activities and ways of engaging of the organizations and movements that decide to participate in it, as well as the diversity of genders, ethnicities, cultures, generations, and physical capacities, provid- ing they abide by this Charter of Principles. Neither party representations nor military organizations shall participate in the Forum. Government leaders and members of legislatures who accept the commitments of this Charter may be invited to participate in a personal capacity.
10. The World Social Forum is opposed to all totalitarian and reductionist views of economy, development, and history and to the use of violence as a means of social control by the State. It upholds respect for Human Rights, the practices of real democracy, participatory democracy, peaceful relations, in equality and solidarity, among people, ethnicities, genders, and peoples, and condemns all forms of domination and all subjection of one person by another.
11. As a forum for debate, the World Social Forum is a movement of ideas that prompts reflection, and the transparent circulation of the results of that reflection, on the mechanisms and instruments of domination by
capital, on means and actions to resist and overcome that domination, and on the alternatives proposed to solve the problems of exclusion and social inequality that the process of capitalist globalization with its racist, sexist, and environmentally destructive dimensions is creating interna- tionally and within countries.
12. As a framework for the exchange of experiences, the World Social Forum encourages understanding and mutual recognition among its participant organizations and movements, and places special value on the exchange among them, particularly on all that society is building to center eco- nomic activity and political action on meeting the needs of people and respecting nature, in the present and for future generations.
13. As a context for interrelations, the World Social Forum seeks to strengthen and create new national and international links among organizations and movements of society, that—in both public and private life—will increase the capacity for nonviolent social resistance to the process of dehuman- ization the world is undergoing and to the violence used by the State, and reinforce the humanizing measures being taken by the action of these movements and organizations.
14. The World Social Forum is a process that encourages its participant orga- nizations and movements to situate their actions, from the local level to the national level and seeking active participation in international con- texts, as issues of planetary citizenship, and to introduce onto the global agenda the change-inducing practices that they are experimenting in building a new world in solidarity.
Approved and adopted in São Paulo, on April 9, 2001, by the organizations that make up the World Social Forum Organizing Committee, approved with modifi- cations by the World Social Forum International Council on June 10, 2001.
Appendix 2. “polycentric” World Social Forum Themes 2006 and “goals of Action” for
World Social Forum 2009
“polycentric” World Social Forum Themes 2006
For 2006, the thematic themes were different at each site.
1. Power, politics, and struggles for social emancipation;
2. Imperial strategies and peoples’ resistance;
3. Resources for and rights to life: alternatives to the predatory model of civilization;
4. Diversities, identities, and worldviews in movement;
5. Work, exploitation, and reproduction of life;
6. Communication, culture, and education: alternative and democratizing dynamics.
Traversals: Gender and Diversities
1. War, safety, and peace;
2. Globalized liberalism: apartheid in worldwide scale and impoverishment;
3. Marginalization of the continent and its peoples, migrations, violation of economic, social, and cultural rights;
4. Aggression against rural societies;
5. Alliance between patriarchalism and neoliberalism and marginalization of women’s struggles;
6. Culture, media, and communication: critical thinking and reconstruc- tion, symbolic violences and exclusions;
7. Destruction of ecosystems, biological diversities, and control of resources;
8. International order: United Nations, international institutions, interna- tional rights/law, reconstruction of the South front;
9. International trade, debt, and social and economic policies;
10. Alternatives that will allow advances in democracy, social progress, and respect for peoples’ sovereignty and international law.
1. Imperialism, militarization, and armed conflicts in the region and peace movements;
2. Natural resources, rights, peoples’ control, and privatization, and trans- boundary disputes;
3. Trade development and globalization;
4. Social Justice Human Rights and Governance;
5. State and religion, pluralism and fundamentalism;
6. Nation, nationalities, and ethnic and cultural identifies;
7. Development strategies, poverty unemployment, and displacement;
8. Peoples’ movements and alternative strategies;
9. Women, patriarchy, and social change; and
10. Environment, ecology, and livelihoods
Traversals: Imperialist globalization, patriarchy, caste and racism, religious sectarianism, identity politics, fundamentalism and militarism, and peace.
“goals of Action” for World Social Forum 20092
The several activities self-managed by the WSF must be carried through around one of the 10 goals to follow, proposed by organization and groups of organiza- tion during the process of registration for the event.
The goals were defined after an extensive public consultation to various orga- nizations and entities participating in the WSF process.
1. For the construction of a world of peace, justice, ethics, and respect for different spiritualities, free of weapons, especially nuclear ones;
2. For the release of the world domain by capital, multinationals corpo- rations, imperialist, patriarchal, colonial and neocolonial domina- tion, and unequal systems of commerce, by canceling the impoverish countries debt;
3. For universal and sustainable access to the common property of mankind and nature, for the preservation of our planet and its resources, particu- larly water, forests, and renewable energy sources;
4. For the democratization and independence of knowledge, culture, and communication and for the creation of a system of shared knowledge and acquirement with the dismantling of Intellectual Property Rights;
5. For the dignity, diversity, ensuring the equality of gender, race, ethnicity, generation, sexual orientation, and elimination of all forms of discrimi- nation and caste (discrimination based on descent);
6. For ensurance (during the lifetime use of all people) of the economic, social, human, cultural, and environmental rights, particularly the rights to food, health, education, housing, employment and decent work, com- munication and food security, and sovereignty;
7. For the construction of a world order based on sovereignty, self- determination, and people’s rights, including minorities and migrants;
8. For the construction of a democratic emancipator, sustainable and sol- idary economy, focused on every people and based on ethical and fair trade;
9. For the construction and expansion of truly local, national, and global democratic political and economic structures and institutions, with the participation of people in decisions and control of public affairs and resources;
10. For the defense of the environment (amazonic and other ecosystems) as source of life for the planet Earth and for the originary peoples of the world (indigenous, Afro-descendent, tribal, and riverine), which demand their territories, languages, cultures.
Appendix 3. Platform of the International
International movement for democratic control of financial markets and their institutions adopted at the international meeting of December 11–12, 1998.
Financial globalization increases economic insecurity and social inequalities. It bypasses and undermines popular decision making, democratic institutions, and sovereign states responsible for the general interest. In their place, it substi- tutes a purely speculative logic that expresses nothing more than the interests of multinational corporations and financial markets.
In the name of a transformation of the world depicted as a natural law, citi- zens and their representatives find their decision-making power contested. Such a humiliating proof of impotence encourages the growth of antidemocratic parties. It is urgent to block this process by creating new instruments of regulation and control, at the national, European, and international levels. Experience clearly shows that governments will not do so without encouragement. Taking up the double challenge of social implosion and political desperation thus requires a dramatic increase in civic activism.
The total freedom of capital circulation, the existence of tax havens, and the explosion of the volume of speculative transactions have forced governments into a frantic race to win the favor of big investors. Every day, one hundred billion dollars pass through the currency markets in search of instant profits, with no relation to the state of production or to trade in goods and services. The conse- quences of this state of affairs are the permanent increase of income on capital at the expense of labor, a pervasive economic insecurity, and the growth of poverty. The social consequences of these developments are even more severe for dependent countries that are directly affected by the financial crisis and are sub- jected to the dictates of the IMF’s adjustment plans. Debt service requires gov- ernments to lower social service budgets to a minimum and condemn societies to underdevelopment. Interest rates much higher than in the countries of the North contribute to the destruction of national producers; uncontrolled privat- ization and denationalization develop in the search for the resources demanded
Everywhere social rights are called into question. Where there are public retirement systems, workers are asked to replace them by a pension fund mech- anism that subjects their own employers to the sole imperatives of immediate profitability, extends the sphere of influence of finance, and persuades citizens of the obsolescence of institutions of solidarity between nations, peoples, and generations. Deregulation affects the labor market as a whole, and the results include degradation of working conditions, the growth of workplace insecurity and unemployment, and the dismantling of systems of social protection.
Using economic development and job creation as a pretext, the major powers have not given up plans for a Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) which would give the investors all the rights and leave national governments with all the responsibilities. Under the pressure of public opinion and mobilization of activists, they had to abandon plans to negotiate this agreement in the frame- work of the OECD, but discussions will resume in the framework of the World Trade Organization. At the same time the United States as well as the European Commission continue their free trade crusade, pushing for the creation of new zones of deregulation at the continental or intercontinental level (the PET pro- ject between Europe and North America, the extension of NAFTA into Latin America, etc.)
There is still time to put the brakes on most of these machines for creating inequalities between North and South as well as in the heart of the developed countries themselves. Too often, the argument of inevitability is reinforced by censorship of information about alternatives. Thus international financial insti- tutions and the major media (whose owners are often beneficiaries of globaliza- tion) have been silent about the proposal of the American economist and Nobel Laureate James Tobin, to tax speculative transactions on currency markets. Even at the particularly low rate of 0.1 percent, the Tobin Tax would bring in close to
$100 billion every year. Collected for the most part by industrialized countries, where the principal financial markets are located, this money could be used to help struggle against inequalities, to promote education and public health in poor countries, and for food security and sustainable development. Such a measure fits with a clearly antispeculative perspective. It would sustain a logic of resistance, restore maneuvering room to citizens and national governments, and, most of all, would mean that political, rather than financial, considerations are returning to the fore.
To this end, signatories propose to participate or to cooperate with the inter- national movement ATTAC to debate, produce, and disseminate information, and act together, in their respective countries as well as on the continental and international levels. This joint actions have the following goals:
• to hamper international speculation;
• to tax income on capital;
• to penalize tax havens;
• to prevent the generalization of pension funds;
• to promote transparency in investments in dependant countries;
• to establish a legal framework for banking and financial operations, in order not to penalize further consumers and citizens; the employees of banking institutions can play an important role in overseeing these opera- tions;
• to support the demand for the general annulment of the public debt of dependent countries, and the use of the resources thus freed on behalf of populations and sustainable development, which many call paying off the “social and ecological debt.”
More generally, the goals are
• to reconquer space lost by democracy to the sphere of finance;
• to oppose any new abandonment of national sovereignty on the pretext of the “rights” of investors and merchants;
• to create a democratic space at the global level.
It is simply a question of taking back, together, the future of our world.
1. Fukuyama, Francis. 1989. “The End of History.” National Interest. Accessed February 2009. http://www.wesjones.com/eoh.htm.
2. Though some religious fundamentalists groups have also built resistance net- works outside the domain of the state, this text focuses specifically on left wing, progressive social movements.
3. No pun intended.
4. The “Battle of Seattle” is the nickname for the AGM’s 1999 anti–WTO demonstration in Seattle.
1. Neoliberal Globalization: Origins and effects
1. While most agencies that regulated banks set their own budgets, the OFHEO’s budget was approved by Congress, which rendered them vulnerable to cam- paign contributors and other lobbyists (Applebaum et al., 2008).
2. Alcan is the Canadian subsidiary of the American Aluminum firm Alcoa.
3. In addition to excluding developing countries, the WEF leadership has a poor record in terms of its gender constitution. Prior to 2001, for example, the WEF’s Board of Directors and the Council Board of Directors were all male. In 2001, nine new members were added to these boards, but only one of them a woman. Despite its attempt to bolster participation from women through its “Women Leaders Program,” women’s participation in the WEF annual meet- ing is estimated to have increased by only 4 percent between 2001 and 2004 (Woodall et al., 2002).
4. See Klein, Naomi. 2007. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Metropolitan Books.
5. According to Steven Lukes (2006:87), “Ethical Individualism is a view of the nature of morality as essentially individual,” in Lukes, Steven. Individualism (Essex, UK: ECPR Press).
6. Barack Obama quoted in “Transcript of Second Obama-McCain Debate,” October 7, 2008, CNNPolitics.com.http://www.cnn.com/2008/ POLITICS/10/07/presidential.debate.transcript/, viewed November 8, 2008. Obama’s own campaign Web site described his initial opposition to the war as
being based on concerns that the war would not go well, with no mention of the war’s immorality or faulty justifications. See “War in Iraq,” http://www. barackobama.com/issues/iraq/, viewed November 17, 2008.
2. the Alternative Globalization Movement and World Social Forum
1. In its own words, the “No Border Network is a European network of antirac- ist groups that are working together against exclusion and criminalization of migrants and for the free movement of everyone” (http://noborder.org).
2. The G8 includes France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Russia as well as the European Union. These nations comprised roughly 65 percent of the world’s wealth.
3. See chapter 4 for a detailed discussion of the black bloc.
4. As a result of the AGM protests in Davos and 9/11 attacks, security costs for the WEF soared, from a few hundred thousand Swiss francs in 1997 to several millions in 2001 (Graz, 2003). In 2003, the WEF moved back to Davos, a more peaceful, “club-like” atmosphere than New York. The security bill in 2003 was roughly $10.3 million, including the use of fighter jets that circled around the venue and hundreds of German police. The cost was in part covered by public funds from Switzerland (Swissinfo, 2003).
5. Associação Brasiliera de Organizações Não Governamentais (Brazilian Association of NGOs); Ação pela Tributação das Financeiras em Apoio aos Cidadãos (ATTAC); Commissão Brasiliera Justiça Paz (CBJP) (Brazilian Commission for Peace and Justice); Associação Brasiliera de Empresários pela Cidadania (CIVES); and Rede Social De Justiça e Direitos Humanos.
6. Elizabeth Block (2004) provides a useful definition: “Horizontalism does not ignore informal hierarchies, but rather seeks mechanisms to control them, without re-inscribing vertical structures into our formal organizational archi- tectures. At the same time, horizontalism always means remaining open and flexible to diversity and difference—within certain limits, of course.”
7. Thematic terrains for the 2005 WSF included assuring and defending the Earth and people’s common goals as an alternative to commodification and transnational control; arts and creation: weaving and building people’s resistance culture; communication: counterhegemonic practices, rights, and alternatives; defending diversity, plurality, and identities; human rights and dignity; sovereign economies against neoliberal capitalism; ethics, cosmovi- sions, and spiritualities; social struggles and democratic alternatives; peace, demilitarization, and struggle against war, free trade, and debt; autonomous thought, reappropriation, and socialization of knowledge and technologies; toward construction of international democratic order; transversal themes: social emancipation and political dimensions of struggles; struggle against patriarchal capitalism; struggle against racism and other types of exclusion based on ancestry, gender, and diversities.
8. The themes outlined in the Porto Alegre Consensus include debt cancellation, adoption of the Tobin tax on international financial transfers, dismantling of
tax havens, the promotion of equitable forms of trade, a guarantee on the sovereignty of a country’s right to not only be able to produce affordable food for its citizens, but also to police its food supply, the implementation of antidiscrimination polices for minorities and women, and democratization of international organizations, which would include moving the UN head- quarters far South of its current New York location.
9. Signatories include Aminata Traore, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Eduardo Galeano, Jose Saramago, Francois Houtart, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Armand Mattelart, Robert Savio, Riccardo Petrella, Ignacio Ramonet, Bernard Cassen, Samir Amin, Atilio Boron, Samuel Ruiz Garcia, Tariq Ali, Frei Betto, Emir Sader, Walden Bello, and Immanuel Wallerstein.
10. Peter Waterman (2006) described thirdworldism as “the notion that the pri- mary contradiction of capitalism was that between core and periphery, and that the states and/or peoples of the Third World were the primary force for development and/or revolution.”
11. The IBASE study, entitled “A Cross-Section of Participation in the 2005 Forum” involved 2,540 interviews with participants (Osava, 2006).
12. The Web site of the World Bank (2008) claims that Bank employees have attended every WSF since its inception.
3. Nongovernmental Organizations (Ngos)
1. For a discussion of the role of violence at AGM protests, see “The Anti- capitalist Movement after Genoa and New York” by Alex Callinicos in Aronowitz, Stanley and Gautney, Heather. 2003. Implicating Empire: Globalization and Resistance in the 21st Century (New York: Basic Books).
2. The letter was signed by the leadership and some members of Brazilian trade union confederation, CUT as well as members of CONDSEF, ANDES-SN, FNITST, FENAJUFE, SINDSEP, Sindicato dos Radialistas-SP, and SINTSEF-CE (federais). January 2, 2002.
3. Michel Foucault, James D. Faubion et al., Power: Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984, Vol. 3 (New York: New Press, 2000), pp. 201–222.
4. Gilles Deleuze. “Postscript on the Societies of Control.” October, vol. 59, Winter, 1992, pp. 3–7.
4. Antiauthoritarian Social movements
1. Kaczynski identified himself as an anarchist, although he distinguished his tactics from those of other anarchists. See “the Unabomber Manifesto” (1995). Accessed May 12, 2009. <http://www.ed.brocku.ca/~rahul/Misc/ unibomber.html>.
2. Berkman was allegedly involved in terroristic activities, including an assassi- nation attempt against John D. Rockefeller. He served 14 years in prison for his attempted assassination of Henry Clay Frick.
3. In The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), Marx and Engels state: “The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other
proletarian parties: Formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.” In Anti- Duhring (1877), Engels further explains: “The first act by which the state really comes forward as the representative of the whole of society—the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society—is also its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies down of itself. The gov- ernment of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not ‘abolished.’ It withers away. This gives the measure of the value of the phrase ‘a free people’s state,’ both as to its justifiable use for a long time from an agitational point of view, and as to its ultimate scientific insufficiency; and also of the so-called anar- chists’ demand that the state be abolished overnight.” In State and Revolution, Lenin further discusses the “withering away of the state.”
4. See Michel Foucault, James D. Faubion et al., 2000. Power: Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984, vol. 3. (New York: New Press), pp. 201–222.
5. Here, “enclosure” refers to a seizure of common lands by the state, reminis- cent of the expropriation of peasants from agricultural commons during the eighteenth century, documented in Karl Marx’s Capital, vol. 1, Chapter 27: “The Expropriation of the Agricultural Population from the Land.”
6. The seven main autonomous spaces at the 2004 ESF included Beyond ESF; Radical Theory Forum; Indymedia Center; The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination; Mobile Carnival Forum; Solidarity Village; and Women’s Open Day (Juris, 2005).
7. According to Juris (2006), the seven Action Centers included “the Caracol Intergalactika (global struggles, new forms of activism, and direct action), Espaço Che (culture and health), Laboratório de Conhecimentos Livres (free knowledge and communication), Lôgun Édé (human rights and sexual diver- sity), Terrau (anti-capitalist social movements), Raizes (cultures of resistance), and Tupiguara (environmental culture). Moreover, there were also numerous axônios, or smaller spaces, scattered throughout the camp, housing activities related to feminism, health, clowning, hip hop, solidarity economies, student movements, and religion.”
5. Political Parties and the state
1. Statement by Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma on September 24, 2007 during the UN meeting on Climate Change in New York.
2. In 2000, a series of strikes, blockades, and protests erupted in Costa Rica against the “Energy Combo,” a legislative initiative to privatize electricity in the country. The 2005 protests against the CAFTA grew out of this move- ment, giving birth to the Comités Patrióticos (Patriotic Committees), a move- ment of farmers and workers not tied to any political party.
3. Immaterial labor is also discussed in chapter 4. In broad strokes, it refers to labor that is no longer necessarily directly tied to formal production processes and thereby produces value that is no longer calculable in those terms.
4. Hardt and Negri’s concept of the social worker is discussed in chapter 4.
5. Dual power, popular in anarchist discourse, points to the strategy of directly challenging states and other institutions of power, while simultaneously con- structing institutions and projects that prefigure the egalitarian society they aim to realize.
6. States and movements
1. This section is derived from a coauthored (with Franco Barchiesi) paper, entitled “Vieques O Muerte: Transnational Movement and the Politics of Diaspora,” published in DeriveApprodi in Italian in November 2003 (no copyright).
1. Available on the official WSF Web site www.forumsocialmundial.org.brand published in Sen, Jai Escobar, Anand, Anita, Escobar, Arturo, and Waterman, Peter (eds.). 2004. World Social Forum: Challenging Empires (New Delhi: Viveka Foundation).
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