Future of the Alterglobalization Movement
- Dissertation: Alternative Futures of Globalisation. A Socio-Ecological Study of the World Social Forum Process. José María Ramos. May 2010
This section is an extract from the last chapter, which provides a summation of the finding of the thesis. As a study into alternative futures, it was important to challenge the status quo of the WSF(P), and offer alternative visions and pathways for the alter-globalization movement. After all, alter-globalization (and alter-localization) is the POINT of the WSF(P). The WSF(P) is the vehicle for the transformation of our world, not an end in itself. To do this I used a scenario building method that identified the ‘success formula’ of the organization(s), and examined what that ‘success formula’ disowns. Interestingly, while the exposition of scenarios challenges the de facto horizontalism of the WSF(P), it also opens the future up to a ‘WSF 2.0’ (see scenario 3). I drew on this web based metaphor to articulate my preferred future and next stage in the alter-globalization movement. But more specifically this refers to a P2P commons based strategy. Indeed, many of the ideas in this scenario are being built by people in the P2P movement. A final note to readers, the concluding chart may help readers to conceptualize the 4 scenarios a bit easier. Let me know what you think, and I’m happy to answer questions.
Four Scenarios for the Futures of the WSF(P)
Scenario One: Utopia of Horizontal Space
In this scenario the dominant format and process by which the WSF has developed (its 'success formula') continues, here called the ‘utopia of horizontal space’. Horizontalism becomes the official discourse of the forum, aggressively defended (Blau, 2008). Expressions like the Porto Alegre 19 and Bamako Appeal become ever more rare, and when they do occur the authors and creators are denounced as ‘vanguardists’ for exhibiting ‘command logic’ and ‘vertical-ism’. Yet this horizontalism is also valuable, providing a collective space for decolonisation and conscientisation.
Following the lead of advocates for a forum process as non-hierarchical space and inclusion (Sen, 2007; Whitaker, 2007; Whitaker, 2004), the forum process continues down the path of promoting a global space for counter hegemonic actors to meet, network and collaborate, but remains non-deliberative. They argue, the constitution of counter hegemonic forces in the first place requires the construction of an inclusive space of exchange, and that coming to a shared understanding of globalisation / alternative globalisations requires a process of open intermingling and communication (Sen, 2007).
The advocates of forum-as-space argue change cannot be forced or produced, it emerges from the context specific embodiments of groups, which are all time and space bound expressions, each with their specific logics. This conceptual movement toward space means that the WSF(P) should evolve, and actors part of it will produce many meta-formations through a longer chain of iterations, not one manifesto everyone can agree upon for all time.
Yet, the increasing dominance of horizontalism, forum as space and process, runs contrary to this very ideology of transformative process, as the WSF(P) cannot be fundamentally challenged and altered. The purpose and operation of the WSF(P) is kept as is, and the post ‘68 disownment of older leftists 'vanguardist' tendencies is complete.
The spectacle of celebrity and inclusion continues to follow the intellectual celebrity + open space formula, celebrity speakers and inclusivity continues to attract people, size impresses observers. The Faustian bargain that open space methodology represents becomes clear; the WSF(P) can hold radical diversity, but only through giving each group its own space. On the plus side this allows a continuous expansion and proliferation of actors, visions, and counter hegemonic knowledges. It helps build the WSF(P) spectacle. Over time the forum becomes fashionable, and the increase in size and diversity makes the forum into a counter-cultural bazaar for social tourism and activism.
Yet critics of the WSF(P) become stronger and louder (Fuentes, 2010; Grzybowski, 2010; Toussaint, 2010). To these critics, the WSFP has failed as a response to the ecological, economic, cultural and political crises we face. While they cite the WSF(P)’s value as a space of exchange, they argue it has led to no real transformations of economic or political power relations. Open space was meant to allow for diversity and autonomy, yet it has strengthened identity politics (Bergmann, 2003) and fragmentation, in which each group celebrates its ‘difference’ and ‘diversity’, without accomplishing the task of ‘cognitive mapping’ the common ground needed to build a global movement against capitalism and a post-corporate world (Bergmann, 2006).
To these critics, the WSF(P) reproduces the segmentation and individualism it critiques in the West. Competition remains rife between groups, as forums become places for organisations to recruit social tourists. The much-needed confrontations and adjudications between ideologically different groups is averted, and thus Santos’ call for a 'work of translation' remains more idea than practice. Groups identify the forum as a place to further their own interests, campaigns and needs, without committing to a broader struggle.
Local and regional forums continue to be organised autonomously, continuing the planetary dimension of WSF(P), supporting local to trans-national networking, but the efficacy of an AGM remains weak, leading to frustration, even as events get bigger. Sociologists begin to talk about the forum as a compensatory process. The ritualistic display of affiliations, identities and declarations help groups vent, express their values, diversities and affirm oppositions. Yet it expresses what Zizek described as 'the anti-globalisation movement need[ing] neo-liberalism’.1 Ritualistic displays the difference fill the need to affirm identity, but identity politics is strengthened and not transformed.
A practical critique also emerges. Arguments that the WSF expresses participatory democracy begin to sound hollow. Many years after the birth of the WSF, groups within it continue to espouse radical democracy (Ponniah, 2006), yet there are still no real institutional avenues for democracy in the WSF itself (Teivainen, 2007) (also see Appendix V), the WSF IC is increasingly seen as a closed clique incapable of democratising its own institutional processes. The legitimacy that the forum once gained from having 160+ organisations as part of an IC becomes a liability, a very small slice of ‘civil society’, and the IC continues to have no processes for adjudicating membership applications.
This crisis of legitimacy leads to fractures within the AGM. First, Chavez’s November 2009 call to begin a 5th International kickstarts a process to develop a united front for the construction of a post-capitalist world order. Leftist parties, social movements and labour groups increasingly de-prioritise the WSF(P), and devote time and energy into the nascent 5th International. Secondly, militant autonomists / anarchist groups also abandon the forum process, critiquing as naïve its ideology of non-violence, as eco-anarchists and 'diversalists' argue for an 'auto-immune response' to the threats posed by 'the cancer of capitalism'.
Scenario one contains a number of consequences and implications. First, the WSF(P) remains a key incubator and facilitator of emerging planetary consciousness, identification and responsibility, activist’s ‘Woodstock experience’ and the 'glue' for an emergent planetary citizenship. Yet, interconnections within the planetary geography of diverse SEAs remain weak. Local forums (like the Melbourne one) still remain un-integrated into the overall process. No ‘map’ emerges that facilitates better internal navigation. Complexity remains written onto the dense texts of social forum programs, but not part of a planetary informational resource. In addition there is no real integration between diverse temporalities – how projects interrelate as part of an AGM. Santos' 'ecology of temporality' remains an interesting sociological perspective, but not an emerging organising logic of the WSF(P). Equally problematic, cognitive justice is never fully realized, despite the ever-growing phenomenon of the Epistemology of the South. The integration and coherence between such diverse knowledge systems and ways of knowing is difficult given the gigantism and methodological autonomism expressed by open space. And, due to the forum's dis-ownment of state and corporate structures, the WSF(P) never creates a media structure capable of translating such experiences into distributive media power. Finally, the forum expands political space, as participants openly declare their aspirations, visions and strategies for change without fear of police or state prosecution. However this political space is not used to challenge power.
Scenario Two: WSF as the 5th international
In scenario two, the WSF(P) becomes what it has disowned, a vanguard organisation that makes declarations and decisions, which some dub the ‘5th International’. Worsening global conditions, and the persistence of Western neo-liberalism and the neo-liberalism of emerging powers such as China, Russia, South Africa and others (Palat, 2008) drive debate within the IC over its reticence in terms of developing a united anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist platform. Proponents argue for a new stage in the development of counter hegemonic struggle (Toussaint, 2010). If the first phase was an 'open space' to gather counter hegemonic energies, the next stage is its organisation into a movement. They argue a ‘class for itself’ has emerged, representing the experiences and concerns of the 4 billion at the bottom, but must be translated into action.
The consensus system used by the WSF breaks down, as an anti-capitalist block uses veto power to paralyse the IC. This sets the stage for dismantling the consensus system, after which, anti-capitalist and climate justice blocks move quickly to promote organisational ‘reforms’.
Considering Chavez's November 2009 call for a 5th International a threat to the integrity of a movement, the WSF quickly attempts to sideline his proposal, and steal the mantle of the 5th International. A committee is created to coordinate the transformation of the WSF from an open space process to a global movement-coordinating organisation. Commentators and journalists acknowledge the importance of this shift, and begin to refer to the WSF as a possible 5th International. Officially the WSF replaces 'world' with 'international', re-badging itself as the 'International Social Forum' (ISF).
The proponents of ISF argue that from the beginning open space was fraught and informal power was pervasive - a 'tyranny of structurelessness' (Freeman, 1972). With the absence of formal mechanisms of decision-making, informal and hidden power recreated the very system of power it critiqued in neo-liberal institutions. Representation, they argue, is the way to address the prevalence of the hidden power-interests within INGOs, especially those funded by Western governments (Robinson, 2005a). The ISF IC is therefore transformed into a representative body for majority world struggles. A complex representative mechanism is developed in which votes are weighted based on country population divided by number of member organisations and the proportional size of the grassroots membership of these organisations.
Many of the local to national social forums become registry organisations for structuring this representational process, and facilitating locale based positions. Organisations that want to be part of this new body pay a membership fee (proportional to relative purchasing power), which helps to finance the ISF. Local social forums must be registered chapters of the ISF. Recalcitrant 'horizontalist’ forums are denounced on the official website, and competing ISF chapters are set up. Recalcitrant local forums are eventually killed off, whither, or disassociate from the ISF movement and change their names. This shift has the effect of alienating a good proportion of the broader AGM. Autonomist anti-capitalists are the first to go, as well as a good section of the state funded or state connected INGOs.
ISF events are transformed into processes of aggregating decision-making toward joint declarations, strategies and actions. Representational processes (based on 'consensus minus 2' and proportional voting systems), are used to develop strategic programmes and tactical actions. The ISF becomes a truer referent organisation, engaging in strategic development and coordination for its client groups.
ISF proponents challenge the idea that local counter hegemonic struggles can thrive without enfranchisement in broader political and economic systems. The new ISF Charter of Principles opens the door for eco-socialist governments and worker / community owned businesses to participate in ISF meetings as special members, and the ISF begins to make alliances with the most ambitious of them.
The ASM becomes more powerful within the ISF, pushing the ISF to increasingly espouse anti-capitalist and post-capitalist positions, arguing for a fundamental re-organisation of wealth and power, support for anti-imperialist struggles and the use of its networks of affiliations to support popular and underground movements. The ISF’s goals become aligned toward undermining corporate power, neo-liberal regimes and enacting democratisation and socialist programmes through both Gandhian and militant approaches.
A number of strategic developments emerge from the ISF. The ISF organises a boycott against a trans-national soft drink corporation known for its human rights abuses and degradation of the environment. This yearlong campaign tests and demonstrates the power of the ISF organisation, as well as making an example (for the global community) of the soft drink TNC. Using a combination of Gandhian styled boycott organising, well crafted adbusting, grassroots media activism and legal challenges in many countries, the boycott cripples the corporation. The repentant corporation agrees to accept key ISF demands, improving workers and union rights, an environmental compact, ongoing auditing and reporting.
A more ambitious boycott is organised against a nation-state accused of pernicious unilateralism, human rights violations, breaches of international conventions, and non-compliance with climate mitigation processes. This boycott is less effective. The nation-state loses billions in trade revenue, but splits the ISF membership, between groups located or connected with the accused nation, (similar to what happened toward the end of the 2nd International).
Most ambitiously, the ISF organises a week long ‘global general strike' to demand the implementation of a ‘global living wage’. 250 million workers, mothers, peasants and others of the ‘meta-industrial classes’ (Salleh, 2009) participate in acts of non-cooperation, as well as taking to the streets, temporarily paralysing the global economy for a week.
Monopoly breaking becomes an important strategy for the ISF, and it begins to support investment in social enterprises aimed at breaking the stranglehold of power that corporations have on aspects of consumption through helping establish worker owned competitors. It supports social enterprises such as global financial cooperatives to compete against corporate banks. The innovation of alternative economic models furthers the goal of democratising worker rights, coupling productivity with social and ecological justice.
With the help of groups such as Telesur, the ISF constitutes its vast knowledges, capabilities and visions into a space of self-recognition, through a global satellite channel – ISF.TV. This channel highlights the issues, and conditions of those struggling against neo-liberalism and empire, including stories of caste, peasants and workers struggles.
The ISF decides on a strategy of announcing a world parliament in exile, which provides an alternative and critique to the UN system. However because of the overtly leftist nature of the ISF, it's effort to claim universal legitimacy is hampered, and other groups, such as right wing populists, and green groups, create their own 'parliaments in exile'.
Scenario two carries a number of consequences and implications. First, within the ISF.TV the pluralism of the AGM network model is lost, as the channel shies from 'fringe' issues, gay and lesbian, spiritual, women’s, and autonomist perspectives. The competition among ISF members for representation is fierce and highly political in nature. Its audience penetration does not compare with the emerging power of peer-to-peer media (displacing and converging with TV). Secondly, the emerging narrative communicated by the ISF is post-colonial, neo-marxist and evolutionary. The 500 year history of capitalism, with its phases in the enclosures of commons, is paralleled by anti-systemic struggles for the construction of a post-industrial eco-socialism based on new planetary solidarities among 'meta-industrials'. It is a potent story, but it is not all-inclusive. Third, formal processes in the adjudicaton of knowledge develop, squashing debate about what is credible knowledge and what is not, losing Santos’ vision for an 'ecology of knowledges' where legitimacy is based on ‘contextual credibility’ (Santos, 2006, p. 19). The budding stories of diverse SEAs is lost. Fourth, taking official positions against certain regimes, including the neo-imperialism of the US, Euro-zone, Russia and China, leads to a loss of political space, as organisers find themselves targeted in their home countries, often persona non grata. The ISF begins to be excluded from many of the large countries where it draws its support and where it wants to extend influence. Finally, this makes the possibility of a rapprochement between ISF and the UN, under the control of the security council, less and less viable. ISF is excluded from existing geo-political power structures.
Scenario Three: WSF(P) as Planetary SEA (Social Ecology of Alternatives)
This scenario draws on the first and second scenarios, and builds into this the perspective of a social ecology of alternatives (SEA) discussed throughout this thesis. In the first scenario the dominant format of the social forum remains unchanged. In the second scenario, its disowned self, vanguardism, quest for unity, and organisational coordination and efficacy become dominant. This third scenario attempts to integrate these competing tensions, where the WSF(P) engages in both vanguardist projects and collaborative co-presencing.
With pressure to translate the WSF(P) expansion into new modes of efficacy, various groups in the WSF(P) engage in redesigns of its operational and methodological processes. The new design will attempt to hold the complex diversity that the process has brought forth, yet facilitate faster and more efficacious coherences between the many actors that are part of it, in constructing a post-capitalist world order. The WSF is reconstituted as a developer of strategic platforms. A number of integrations are proposed as part of this redesign process, that will follow Bello's call to draw strength from the forums diversity while coordinating modes of counter power (Bello, 2007b). The forum is transformed from a space to a platform, and dubbed WSF 2.0.
The first redesign is the vertical integration of previously dis-owned spheres of power, governments and businesses, that are part of a broader counter hegemonic movement. Vertical spheres of power are to be 'infiltrated', politicised and used for the purpose of opening up avenues for grassroots power. The framers of WSF 2.0 aims to politicise institutional power, while building the enfranchisement of SEAs into institutional democratic power bases.
Within a network discourse, institutions are seen as sites of diversity where struggles occur between various interests. WSF 2.0 aims to draw upon elements within institutional matrixes of power, and re-frame their legitimacy and potential for de-legitimation or re-legitimation. The new approach aims to draw into an ecology potential synergies of institutional counter power. Following Teivainen’s (Teivainen, 2007) argument for the politicisation of institutional power, the designers of WSF 2.0 hark back to the example of Porto Alegre itself, where the Workers Party (PT) was both key in enabling initial WSFs and in enacting participatory budgeting. Advocates locate the spirit of Porto Alegre in the politicisation and democratisation of institutional spaces in conjunction with civic / movement power. Following Teivainen’s (2007) arguments, politicisation toward participatory democratisation becomes the ‘litmus test’ used to determine whether WSF 2.0 will or will not work with particular institutions.
The horizontal integration between fields of counter power is an extension on this vertical integration. Horizontal integration means that actors across distinct institutional spaces, for example political, cultural and economic, across localities, have the capacity to find synergies that allow for alternative regime formations.
Scenario three leads to a number of strategic developments. Acknowledging the rich existence of geo-graphically diverse SEAs, and also addressing the lack of integration between various forums around the world, especially between global forums and local forums, an effort is made to create a virtual web platform that allows coordination and resource sharing between diverse SEAs. Called the ‘Global SEA’ project, this entails the geographic integration between local, regional and global forums, and allows a new connection between diverse counter publics SEAs, with a richer potential for synergy among diverse actors that are geographically dispersed.
WSF 2.0 builds on its experiment with WSF TV, by launching a project for Global Cognitive Justice. This project aims to create a collaborative platform through which groups can construct repositories of subaltern experience, and capacities of distribution and communicative influence, through a number of virtual media-meeting spaces, wikis, TV programs, video sharing, etc. This brings together counter hegemonic knowledges and science into an 'ecology of knowledges', allowing adjudication based on ‘contextual credibility’ (Santos, 2006, p. 19).
Closely connected to the above project, the Experience Our-Stories (counter hegemonic historiography) project attempts to integrate the diversity of historical perspectives that challenge the liberal narrative, to re-frame a development debate dominated by ideas of progress and modernisation. It layers and integrates various stories of struggle from the diverse experiences of the forum community. Through a wiki and magazine publishing process moderated by WSF 2.0, counter hegemonic actors are able to tell their own rich stories of the endogenous development of ‘another possible world’.
In order to address the diversity of projects in the WSF(P), with different scales and time horizons, WSF 2.0 creates a platform dedicated to allowing the participatory mapping of projects of change. Following Wallerstein’s (2002) vision to integrate the strategic time dimensions of the AGM, this project aims to facilitate the use of the WSF's ecology of temporalities as a resource, allowing actors greater coordination through (cognitive) mapping of struggles from short term to long term in flexible and iterative ways. Attempts are made to ‘frame the speed’, rather than be shunted into the relentless pace of competitive, modernist time, promoting organic rhythms in the development of another world.2
In the project People in Planetary Governance, WSF 2.0 creates a platform to facilitate collaborations in envisioning and constructing democratic global governance institutions, processes and structures. Importantly, WSF 2.0 utilises this project in attempting to create effective democratic structures for the WSF(P) itself. Protocols for inclusion, participation, representation and decision-making are created through a broad stakeholder engagement process for a more complex and multi-level WSF(P). This project also brings diverse actors together to support the universal ratification of the ICC (to get the US, Russia and China to ratify), creation of a World Environment Organisation (Held, 2005), and development of a Planetary Protocol for Climate Justice, and many other initiatives.
Inspired by Slum / Shack Dwellers International (Podlashuc, 2009), a platform for resource exchanges is created to link the various SEAs across their diverse geo scales. Based on the AGM’s acknowledgement that webs of solidarity are fundamental to creating the capacity for savings and endogenous economic development, enabling the viability of SEAs, this project aims to integrate SEAs into financial solidarities through the creation of a planetary exchange system and resource pool that can support solidarity economies prefiguring and producing eco-sufficiency and justice.
WSF 2.0 launches the Planetary Commons project - a platform for building a new intellectual / informational commons, defending existing knowledge commons and challenging corporate control and predation of community knowledge and informational resources - genetic knowledge, academic literature, filmic media, education resources, and other knowledge commons.
Finally the Non-Cooperation project is launched to create a platform for coordinating global campaigns for satyagraha, non-cooperation (e.g. boycotts) and non-violent civil disobedience. WSF 2.0 does not decide which states or corporations will be targeted, but provides crucial leadership in developing a platform through which multiple non-cooperation campaigns can be coordinated, to decide what are the tactical demands, long term strategic aims, who to target, and how. Politicisation toward institutional democratisation is the overarching aim.
WSF 2.0 identifies the great threat posed by scenario four, how SEAs rely on public place and political space to thrive. Inspired by PBI, the Planetary Co-Presence projects attempts to link holders and custodians of public spaces and political spaces with the many SEAs, into a virtual space of collaboration, such that an emerging planetary map of convergence for dissent spaces are available for counter-publican interests. Greater integration and coherence in the construction of public and political space, both physical and virtual, allows for new levels of co-presencing between a diversity of actors across a number of geo scales. The project become a way to protect counter publics and their pre-figurative innovators against the whims of reigning economic and political powers.
Scenario three contains a number of consequences and implications. First, in this scenario counter publics become more enfranchised in different ways across the different scales of space, structure, and power as structural platforms are created drawing on the energy - financial, cultural and political resources of SEAs - for the construction of planetary resource pools and solidarity processes that provide leverage in relation to dominant publics. Secondly, in WSF 2.0, the 'another world is possible' aspirations reflect the creation of a space and public discourse in which different actors actively inhabit each other's alternative universes, an embodied form of solidarity that allows such a SEA to come into being. It is movement as a cellular transformation of life through relational solidarity. Thirdly, as a global strategy it privileges the ‘noo-political’ space of virtual coordination over embodied localised interactions, which carries negative implications for those actors dis-enfranchised in respect to virtual strategies. Finally, it is able to draw together localised SEAs – on their own terms - into a planetary process of interlinking.
Scenario Four: The Dis-integration of WSFP and Death of the AGM
This scenario is modelled on the example of the G20 Convergence as analysed in Chapter Five, which provides the template for understanding how a dis-integration of the AGM may occur and how it would impact the WSF(P).
Heterogeneous AGM networks, processes and movements for social change continue to diverge. On the one hand are campaigns like MPH, which continue to attract large numbers, while anti-globalisation protests morph into a growing anti-capitalist movement. Three wings of climate activism begin to gain momentum as global patterns, a militant front of small but highly motivated groups for climate justice, a Gandhian front of popular civil disobedience for climate justice and mitigation, and a reformist sector for climate mitigation using popular engagement approaches backed by big business. Importantly, the WSF organising bodies (IS and IC) make little efforts to reach out to these various groups to coordinate a broader struggle (justifying their non-involvement based on the WSF Charter), and indeed these various movements are difficult to engage generally. Independently, these different AGM sub-movements and processes begin to develop strategic commitments without feeling a need to develop broader cross movement coherences in content and strategy.
Internal commitment within the WSF to involve itself as a movement coordinator is weak. The WSF contains deep social capital and networks, but is unwilling to use it for coordination. Local and regional forums continue but remain un-integrated or coordinated in respect to a broader AGM. While the WSFs remain large, increasingly anarchists / autonomists and state-socialists reject the forum as either verticalist, reformism or a waste of time.
After coordinating among various strands of the climate justice movement, a disciplined and coordinated Gandhian wing emerges. Trained extensively in non-violent direct action, their tactics are aimed at garnering support from the public through conscientious disobedience and disruption. Thousands of groups converge to support Global Days of Action (GDAs) for climate justice held in cities around the world. Videos of riot police brutalising protesters make their way into video-sharing platforms. Thousands of protesters are held in detention after each GDA.
Reformist fronts of the global justice and climate mitigation movements continue to grow in strength as popular concern over poverty and climate change increases. Big INGO’s are able to reap the benefits of this public concern. Funded by state departments, armies of tele-marketers and a growing ensemble of corporate partnerships, these groups are able to leverage their own well managed enterprises and public concern, to make themselves the vanguards of social change in the public eye. While this irks many activists and movement organisers, the revenue continues to pour in as the formula continues to work.
Despite these Gandhian and reformist fronts, a lack of action on climate change gives rise to widespread frustration in countries of the North and South, emboldening those espousing militancy and a ‘diversity of tactics’ (DoT). Anti-capitalist militants and climate militants begin to organise for guerrilla warfare against various targets. They are somewhat networked but largely uncoordinated. Climate militants target the symbols and infrastructure of climate emissions, first destroying car dealerships, later sabotaging rail and sea based coal transport, and coal fired electricity production. Anti-capitalist militants destroy shopping malls, and symbols of consumerism, excess and corporate prestige.
The most spectacular display of militancy occurs at a combined G20 / UN event aimed to restart stalled climate mitigation talks. On the first day, reports of violence between black bloc and police on the outskirts of the city are reported. On the second day, militants attempt to breach the heavily fortified barrier of the summit compound. After a series of gun battles and numerous deaths and injuries, surviving militants take control of the conference hotel and take the US delegation hostage. Their five demands for the release of hostages is only the beginning of a longer war.
Over time the ‘global public’ loses sympathy for protest groups, who are increasing framed by the media as terrorists, including the Gandhian wing. Some media pundits demand that activists be fitted with GPS tracking devices, and the death penalty for perpetrators of violence. Moderate news channels and papers begin to distance themselves from the hard edge of the climate justice movement and its demands. Careful to disassociate with the protest actions, the reformist end of the climate movement comes out looking like the progressive actor, untainted by the violence.
Militants have affiliations across and through the AGM, which has the effect of criminalising the whole field. The panoptic capabilities of state security agencies mean that thousands of activists are potentially implicated. State security agencies become more brazen about ‘detaining’ suspected perpetrators. State ‘detainment’ / abduction of activists occur all over the world, including at WSFs, based on inter-state intelligence sharing of video footage, with the complicity / assistance of global ICT corporations. Extradition agreements between G8 and NIEs allow hundreds of activists, many innocent, to be extradited and prosecuted, and in some cases detained without charge and tortured. Many spend years defending themselves in kangaroo courts around the world.
Disagreements between Gandhians, militants and other factions, and a sense of betrayal that climate reformists sold out the climate justice movement, fragment the broad lines of the AGM. Vitriolic exchanges within actual and virtual public forums, lead to the loss of ‘relational capital’ that allowed a global resistance network to work in the first place. The criminalisation and panoptic control of dissent intensifies (Whyte, 2006). There are high level attacks on WSF web infrastructure, including the hacking of a major database, and government infiltration of the WSF organising group, which further undermines trust in attending social forums. With an AGM fragmented and bickering among themselves, and unable to match the distributive power of big media, climate reformists are legitimated, while AG transformists are tarred and feathered.
Scenario four contains a number of consequences and implications. First, this scenario represents a failure to hold the difference and complexity of an AGM together. No common organisational platform was created or used to ‘de-polarise pluralities’ and meta-form, or address the prismatic tensions in the AGM. Collaboration was not actively sought and movement actors therefore achieved incoherence and disintegration. Underneath each meta-network were viable congruencies in terms of goals and visions, yet collaboration was rendered impossible due to strategic commitments and the imperative put on ‘success’ by each movement or group. Ideological differences lead to a fragmented set of actors who compete ever more aggressively. Secondly, ‘diversity of tactics’ (DoT) reaches its full expression through militancy and war. We see a loss of political space, as one group’s actions, amplified by media, implicate a broader set of actors. Yet to the extent that one group was demonised, marginalised, overshadowed or incarcerated, while another accrued legitimacy, the loss of political space and increasing criminalisation of dissent was the legacy of all. Thirdly, even for the reformist wings of the AGM, the demise of the AGM represents a loss of political space as well as cultural capital for its activities (increased surveillance and greater public fear to get involved in public campaigns) and loss of the legitimacy of ambitious aims (which are closely connected with the broader AGM). These reformist wings, which once stayed arm’s length away from protest groups and forums, realise too late that they had much in common with a broad AGM, indeed that they formed part of an AGM.
Finally, the disownment of structures of power (state and market) comes full circle. Great states actively target the AGM for prosecution. China and Russia are emboldened to crackdown on human rights campaigners within and beyond their borders. Increasingly fragmented groups of people developing alternatives can only absorb the eco-insufficiencies and injustices that global power structures produce. The dominant public’s resource, labour, and credibility gap(s) are addressed by dumping ever more externalities on communities and people. Fragmented, people building alternatives carve out niche existences in the face of an unsustainable system propping itself up through ever novel ways of legitimising its externalities and appropriations.
Social Complexity and the Construction of Another Possible World
The four scenarios re-iterate the challenge of social complexity identified in Chapter Two. The two lines of social complexity presented in Chapter Two, ontological and epistemological, re-emerge as critical factors that help to structure and contour our understanding of the dilemmas faced by the WSF(P) and AGM. The epistemological axis concerns the tension between prismatism (epistemological pluralism) and polarisation (epistemological closure). The ontological axis concerns the tension between structure (inter-organisational coherence and enfranchisement) and structureless-ness (dis-organisation and dis-enfranchisement).
Figure 6.1 is a re-articulation of Table 2.2 in Chapter Two which analyses social complexity in the WSF(P). In figure 6.1, the four scenarios discussed are expressions of the epistemological and ontological tensions within the WSF(P) and AGM. Scenario one, the current trajectory of the WSF(P), describes it as a place for epistemological pluralism and structural disownment. A diversity of groups cohabit spaces without submitting to a coordinating organisation and reject strategic or thematic associations with businesses, parties and governments. In scenario two, we see epistemological closure and structural re-own-ment. An organising body emerges to give decision-making structure and coordination to an AGM. Rather that epistemological pluralism, it provides an official direction and vision for change. In scenario three, we see structural re-own-ment with epistemological pluralism. This re-own-ment is by way of politicising existing institutions through engagement, and re-inventing the WSF(P) from a space to a platform that gives direction to ‘global projects’ but does not specify details, which are to be worked out by myriad groups. Finally, scenario four (draw from the account of the G20 Convergence) is an example of epistemological closure, as each meta-network is locked into its own operational success formulas, visions and priorities, without attempting a mutual recognition of differences and commonalities (the existence or legitimacy of alternative AGM actors is not recognised). Furthermore, a joint platform for inter-organisational coordination is not developed or rejected, and the disownment of institutional power, together with its relational and strategic fragmentation, leads to an overall loss of political space for the AGM in general."
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