History of the World Social Forum and the Alterglobalization Movement

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Jose Ramos:

This section gives a historical overview of the emergence of the World Social Forum (Process) and alter-globalization movement. This chapter (of which this section is an extract), offers a larger historical narrative that gives context to the tens of thousands of projects and struggles that form part of the alter-globalization project. Importantly, the old left ‘verticalism’ (command and control logic, eventually gave way to a new left horizontalism). The significance of this in regards to P2P is that today, in the alter-globalization movement, both the cultural logic and technological structures are highly related to and overlap with P2P commons based strategies. The cultural logic, ‘horizontalism’ is the de facto modus operandi within the movement, promoting openness, egalitarian exchange, sharing and solidarity systems. The technical logic is built on ICT network structures, tools and strategies. In this sense alter-globalization and P2P are fraternally prefigurative, signifying a concurrent and contemporary transformation of global social relations.


Historical Developments in the Emergence of the WSF(P)

The WSF(P) and movements for another globalisation emerged through complex historical interactions and (as described earlier) the composition of the WSF(P) is multifaceted and complex. In this next section, I attempt to demonstrate the relationship between counter hegemonic struggles and the WSF(P). While it is important to note that comparisons are made between the WSF and older left / anti-colonial movements, the most important factors in the emergence of the WSF(P) are new leftist influences. These include the emergence of the New Left after ’68, the development of the New Social Movements (NSMs), the cultural shift from verticalism to horizontalism, counter-cultural utopianism emerging in the 1970s, and the parallel development of Zapatismo and the anti-globalisation movement.


Utopianism and the Ideology of Horizontalism

Any discussion on hegemony is not complete without an examination of the concept of ‘utopia’. Indeed, hegemony as expressed through neoliberal ideology contains what some have called a ‘conservative utopianism’ (which negates the possibility of alternative futures) (Santos, 2004b, p. 10). In this section I examine the development of a ‘critical utopianism’ through the WSF(P) and AGM that maintains a commitment to opening alternative futures (Nandy, 1992, pp. 1-19; Santos, 2004b, p. 8).

Kumar argues that utopianism largely waned during the early and middle part of the 20th century, as the result of two horrendous world wars, the shadow of nuclear apocalypse, and the cold war. This period saw a dramatic shift (expressed by writers such as H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley) from optimism to pessimism, and the emergence of a popular dystopian imagination (Kumar, 1987, pp. 380-390). While fictions like Orwell's 1984 critiqued totalitarianism, Popper linked totalitarianism with ‘historicism’ - the belief in a determined direction to history (Popper, 1957). The resurgence of utopian thinking in the latter half of the 20th century reflected post '68 and post statist visions. In contrast with technocratic visions of post-industrial society (such as those of Daniel Bell and Herman Kahn), a counter-cultural imagination began to blossom (Boulding, 1978; Kumar, 1987, p. 381; Steger, 2009, pp. 2-4).

Marcuse sign-posted the resurgence of a counter-cultural utopianism in his book ‘The End of Utopia’. His analysis of state violence and endorsement of counter culture movements called for the actualisation of a utopia that links the personal with the political, the liberation of consciousness with a new morality and life practice (Kumar, 1987; Marcuse, 1970).

The intellectual and counter culture movements of the 60s and 70s also saw the emergence of new ways of thinking, with the concept of the global village and global media as popularised by McLuhan (Mcluhan, 1967), the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth (Meadows, 1972), and an awakening of planetary consciousness that was championed by people such as Thompson and Fuller (Fuller, 1978; Thompson, 1974). A growing awareness emerged of global inter-relationships within the world system, a ‘paradigm shift’ in the conceptualisation and self-understanding of humankind’s role on the planet. These were mirrored by a growing body of research and literature in the area of World Futures (Hughes, 1985).

The term ‘spaceship earth’ began to be used (Boulding, 1966 / 1995; Fuller, 1969; Ward, 1966). E. Boulding later pioneered research on global civil society and the concept of global citizenship (Boulding, 1988). Synott argues that the Friends of the Earth slogan ‘Think Global, Act Local’ embodied a prefiguring conception of the global (Synott, 2004, p. 40). This era gave birth to a utopian imaginary concerned with global futures.

As Kumar argues, the two great utopian projects of the 20th century were US techno-liberalism and the socialism of the USSR (Kumar, 1987, p. 381). Gray restates these as two rival enlightenment utopias (Gray, 1998 pp. 2-4). In Gray's analysis, the utopia of global capitalism had its roots in the European enlightenment, with philosophers such as John Locke and Adam Smith. While much of Europe has already embraced post-enlightenment positions, Gray argues that the US (after the Soviet collapse) has remained the world's last enlightenment regime, in which liberalist assumptions such as the enduring principles of laissez-faire markets, Western development and universal human rights, are commonly held.

Gray further suggests that this utopianism can be seen through the neo-conservative ascendancy in the 1980s and 90s. He argues neo-conservatives were successful at linking America's identity with corporate priorities. This linked US values with the imperative of developing a universal and global market (Gray, 1998 pp. 100-132). He writes:

Today's project of a single global market is America's universal mission co-opted by its neo-conservative ascendancy. Market utopianism has succeeded in appropriating the American faith that it is a unique country, the model for universal civilisation which all societies are fated to emulate. (Gray, 1998 p. 104)

Mittelman also argues, the negation of alternatives evident through Margaret Thatcher's ‘TINA’ pronouncements indicates neo-liberal globalisation as a market utopia. A global free market has never really existed, and previous attempts at its implementation have failed to be realised, yet its proponents believe it is the only possible future (Mittelman, 2004b, p. 89). This utopianism is seen in Fukuyama's ‘End of History’ thesis (Fukuyama, 1989).

The WSF(P) emerged as an antithesis to the claim that there is no alternative to neo-liberalism, itself embodying a counter-cultural and global South utopianism. This shifted, however, with the emergence of neo-conservative power in Washington. As a consequence the WSF(P) has become polarised as the antithesis of US imperialism (and to an extent statism), neo-conservatism and militarised neo-liberalism. As Whitaker expressed:

The WSF…asserted that the ‘one truth’ thinking of triumphalist capitalism – which brought the lords and masters of the world together in Davos – could be contested by the utopia of ‘another possible world’ (Whitaker, 2007, p. 16).


From an Old Left to a New Left

Leftist struggles and history are foundational to the existence of the WSF, yet as will be argued, the WSF(P) is (in part) a rejection of an ‘Old Left’ tradition, expressive of far more diverse and complex counter hegemonic movements.

The ‘Internationals’ that held together the early Socialist (and later Communist) movements in Europe are important precursors to the WSF(P) for several reasons. First, they expressed an important cosmopolitan concept of solidarity, insurgency and anti-imperialism - a legacy taken up by aspects of the WSF(P). Secondly, they demonstrated the process of holding together or coordinating across diverse groups and geo-graphic regions in order to build a coherent agenda and movement for change. This is another legacy which parts of the WSF(P) express. Finally, participants at WSF(P) can be very broadly conceived as left in orientation (Santos, 2006, pp. 85-109; Smith, 2008b, pp. 80-90), a social phenomenon which can be partly attributed to the historical success of the labour union movement and the Internationals. Yet, the WSF(P) cannot be conceived as a new International because of its foundational rejection of the Old Left after 1968.

The International Working Men’s Association (IWMA), the first International, was founded in 1864 as a revival of the labour movement in the aftermath of its demise in 1848. Karl Marx himself played a major role in drawing into its fold diverse elements of socialism, from trade unions to anarchists, in order to develop a socialist program of change (Johnstone, 1983, p. 234).

Despite opposition from anarchists, the IWMA was, after the Paris Commune of 1871, transformed into a political party in which ‘the conquest of political power becomes the great duty of the proletariate’ (Johnstone, 1983, p. 234). Because congresses were places where binding decisions were made about the direction of the movement in general, this led to factional (and ideological) struggles for the heart of the IWMA that would eventually lead to its operational demise a decade later (Hollis, 1998, pp. 8-9). The IWMA is an important precedent, in that we see the yoking together of counter hegemonic actors in the service of the development of a coherent program of change. Yet we also see the challenge of uniting diverse actors within a disciplined party structure.

The second International (founded 1889) was a much larger (and looser) federation of unions and parties across Europe, acting as a coordinating body rather than a party. It promoted joint actions such as May Day rallies to advocate for an 8 hour workday, and debated policy, in particular leading to fierce debates between right, left and centrist versions of socialism. Importantly, it articulated an internationalist solidarity against ‘capitalist colonial policies [which] must, by their nature, give rise to servitude, forced labour, and the extermination of the native peoples’ (Braunthal 1966 pp. 319 in Johnstone, 1983, p. 235). This Federation eventually ruptured with the outbreak of WWI, as parties and unions were split among nationalist lines. Like the first, the second International showed the challenges and possibilities of broad solidarity between diverse counter hegemonic actors. It also articulated a bold anti-imperialist internationalism, a theme expressed through the WSF(P), even while being rend apart by the very nationalism it was attempting to transcend.

The Third (Communist) International (or ‘Comintern’) was founded in Moscow in 1919 and had as its aim the implementation of Marxist-Leninism globally, and in particular focused on building a ‘World Union of Socialist Soviet republics’ (Degras 1971 vol.2, p. 465, in Johnstone, 1983). Under Lenin, it also articulated an anti-imperialist agenda in solidarity with the non-West: ‘its task was to liberate working people of all colours’ (Johnstone, 1983, p. 237). The Comintern played a major role in supporting Socialist resistance to Fascism in Europe, yet increasingly, it adopted absolutistic doctrines, rejected ‘reformist’ and ‘bourgeois’ forms of socialism, and ‘gave its full support to Stalin’s purges of the 1930s’ (Johnstone, 1983, p. 238). In reaction the totalitarianism of Stalin, what Trotsky condemned as ‘counter-revolutionary’, a Fourth International was formed from Trotsky’s followers, but which fragmented along many lines and never achieved cohesion (Johnstone, 1983, p. 238). Trotsky inspired non-party groups remain involved in the WSF(P).

While anti-fascist and anti-colonial struggle are themes shared by the WSF(P), authoritarian tendencies in the first two Internationals came to full fruition in its eradication of ideological and programmatic differences through the ‘iron discipline’ it increasingly imposed on its members in various parts of the world (Johnstone, 1983, p. 237). These forms of authoritarianism are specifically rejected by the WSF (see WSF Charter of Principles).

In the wake of WWII, the centre of political-ideological struggle arguably shifted to the non-West; these were often manifested as socialist inspired anti-colonial struggles. The conference of Bandung (Asian-African Conference) helped give birth to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). This was an important expression of non-Western state socialism(s). Bandung was a conference of the South, calling for greater access for Southern countries in global economic matters, expressing a general rejection of the notion of alignment with the great rival powers of the Cold War, as well as opposition to colonialism.2 As an organisation it is comprised of over 100 states, most of which were former colonies.

Hardt compares Bandung and the WSF in an attempt to understand how the WSF is thematically distinct from previous counter hegemonic movements (Hardt, 2004a, pp. 230-236). He argues that the spirit of the WSF (a cosmopolitan alternative globalisation) is at odds with the nationalist agenda expressed through NAM. Unlike the WSF, Bandung was a conference of the political leaders of the South, an expression of statism rejected by the WSF. On the other hand, the WSF(P) expresses a diversity of anti-colonial and post colonial positions, and some of the ideological variants expressed at Forums trace themselves back to the struggle for independence in former colonies.

As Glasius and Timms point out, dating back past the 1970s were anti-colonial struggles in the context of a ‘New International Economic Order’ which explicitly articulated a desire on behalf of former colonial states to exercise management of their own economies as well as global economic affairs (Glasius, 2004, p. 191). Bello argues (since the end of colonialism) there has been an ongoing struggle for dominance between the North and South over global economic governance. In addition to NAM, this has been expressed through the anti / alter-globalisation movement and WSF(P) (Bello, 2004). Thus like the WSF(P), Bandung expressed a common articulation of more equitable North-South relations.


From Old Left to New Social Movements

While the WSF(P) is generally an expression of the left, and has been supported by a spectrum of left groups throughout its history (the Workers Party of Brazil, Communist Party of India and Bolivarian supporters in Venezuela, as examples) the WSF(P) departs substantially from the ‘Old Left’ in vision and methodology (Wallerstein, 2004b). In particular, the WSF was not conceived of as a decision-making body for political (instrumental) action. Santos points out that the WSF is a non-Western creation that sits outside of the West’s epistemological ambit, while still sharing its leftist traditions (Santos, 2006).

One of the key distinctions that can be made is the departure from class as the formative historical agent, a dominant conception within the communist-socialist Internationals. This can be contrasted with the New Social Movements (NSMs), associated ‘movement organisations’ and the NGOs of the 70s and 80s which departed or rejected ‘Old Left’ class orientations, diversifying into alternative categories of struggle (gender, environment, peace, indigenous, etc).

The WSF(P) can thus be, in part, located as a confluence of the New Social Movements (NSMs) and NGOs that emerged from a rejection of the Old Left after 1968. Wallerstein offers a historical account of this shift. According to him the WSF can trace its roots to debates within the anti-systemic movements of the 19th century, between Marxists and Political Nationalists who insisted that capturing state power was essential to social transformation. Others, like Anarchists and Cultural Nationalists saw this as a diversion, or a form of co-option.

Marxists and Political Nationalists won the debate; according to Wallerstein they were ‘spectacularly successful’ in the early to mid 20th century. The East had become Communist and the West had accepted Social Democracy (Wallerstein, 2004b, p. 631). What Wallerstein terms the ‘World Revolution of 68’ was a reaction within anti-systemic movements to the perceived failure of the ‘Old Left’ – the ‘Old Left’ had failed to deliver social transformation, leading to subsequent criticism(s) as characterised by Wallerstein:

you promised social transformation when you came to power; you have not delivered on your promise. The world, they said, remains deeply inegalitarian, worldwide and within our countries; our political systems are not really democratic; there exists a privileged caste (a nomenklatura) within our regimes. Far less has changed than you said would change. (Wallerstein, 2004b, p. 630)

Wallerstein argues that anti-systemic movements were forced to evolve when the revolution of '68 was put down across the world. Three strategies emerged:

1) Multiple forms of Maoism came into being. Taking the Chinese Cultural Revolution as a model. After the collapse of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (when the full extent of its horror was revealed) these movements splintered and died.

2) A ‘New Left’ emerged, this included Feminist, Green, movements representing oppressed ethnic minorities or indigenous populations, and movements to pursue the rights of those that deviate from sexual norms or abilities (i.e. "dis-abled"). This ‘New Left’ movement essentially rejected the centrist, state orientation of the ‘Old Left’.

3) Through the 80s various groups articulated human rights as their core issue (though in variegated forms – e.g. campaigns and the formation of NGOs such as Amnesty International). This variant argued that the Old Left failed to ensure human rights ‘in their struggle for state power, and even more in their practice following the achievement of state power, when governments in power actually violated such rights’ (Wallerstein, 2004b, p. 631).

Reflecting this, Osava writes:

...democracy, sexual freedom, gender equality, recognition of civil rights for blacks in the United States, or the survival of indigenous peoples worldwide ... [this] era also marked the beginning of environmental movements, campaigns to reform psychiatric hospitals and to integrate people with mental or physical handicaps into larger society. The ... consequence was a dispersal of the progressive forces into isolated movements, reflected in the proliferation of [NGOs], each dedicated to specific actions or issues, such as feminism, human rights, street children, or cancellation of the foreign debt. With the [WSF], it seems that cycle is ending and a process of convergence is getting underway. (Osava, 2001)

Wallerstein argues that these post '68 shifts form the backdrop of the anti-globalisation movement which emerged in the 90's, which would later become ‘altermondialiste’ (Wallerstein, 2004b, p. 632). He argues the birth of an AGM can be seen through:

1) The revolt of the Zapatistas (EZLN) in Chiapas, Mexico, which symbolically began on the first day of the implementation of NAFTA on 1st, January, 1994.

2) The activist protests against the WTO that became known as the ‘Battle in Seattle’ in 1999.

3) The first meeting of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in 2001 (Wallerstein, 2004b, p. 632).

1968 was symbolic of the emergence of modern utopianism, the origins of the NSMs, and alternative / plural trajectories of social struggles.5 One can see the WSF(P) as a dynamic convergence of this diversity. The WSF(P) is situated politically toward the end of the two great utopian projects of the West. Its challenges include an embodiment of heterogenous utopianism, a culture inclined toward the co-existence and co-construction of visions based on a process of building profound solidarities based on radical diversity.


Counter Hegemonic Developments after 1968

The famous UN summit in Stockholm on the environment highlighted the emergence of global social movements, not confined to national or ethnic struggles . Falk argues the emerging transnational new social movements (NSMs) there challenged the legitimacy of State power and were critical in initiating an alternative global policy debate, a cosmopolitan challenge to the legitimacy of states in protecting fundamental human interests. (Falk, 2005).

Global movements diversified into social struggles on a number of thematic fronts (feminist, environmental, peace, anti-nuclear, disability rights, sexual rights, human rights, indigenous justice, anti-apartheid etc.). Moyer argued these ‘fronts’ form the basis for an anti-globalisation movement with various sub-movements (NSMs) (Moyer, 2001). Cohen and Rai reflected on this multiplicity of movements, and challenges in constructing coherence toward an alternative world order. They concluded that: ‘without a transnational framework – a global public space or forum – the possibilities for opposition and protest are seriously weakened. We need to think of the possible emergence of an alternative global civil society’ (Cohen, 2000, p. 16).


INGOs and UN Summits

Smith estimates transnationally organised social change groups grew from 200 in the early 1970s to over 1000 in the late 1990s (Smith, 2008b, p. 17). Boulding estimated the number of INGOs rose from 176 in 1909 to 20,000 by 1986 (Boulding, 1988, p. 35). Others estimate INGO number at approximately 13,000 as of 2001 / 2002 (Anheier, 2002). The meaning and implications of this (e.g. leading to global civic culture (Boulding, 1988) or new economic order (Henderson, 1996)) is widely debated. However, INGO global participation in a variety of processes, including UN processes, is contributing what Keane calls ‘cosmocracy’, the complex matrix of forces that co-construct planetary governance (Keane, 2005).

While INGOs are an important part of the WSF(P), where they are located, whether as an aspect of ‘civil society’ or ‘counter public’, as well as the organisations and groups that comprise ‘it’, NGOs or ‘Civil Society Organisations’ (CSOs) is also complex and contested (Axford, 2005 ; Chandler, 2005; Edwards, 2004; Falk, 2005; Keane, 2003; Robinson, 2005a; Weber, 2005). Moyer argued that NGOs represent the institutionalisation of social movements as ‘movement organisations’ (Moyer, 2001). This shift has been described in the positive (the embedding of social movement values in institutional structures), or negative (the taming of social movements) (James, 2004).

As Klein argued, INGOs aid agencies can represent a new form of domination (Klein, 2007). Some dismiss the importance of NGOs as agents of change, noting the breadth and ambiguity of what comprises ‘civil society’, as well as contradictions in the ‘non’ portion of the term. Robinson’s analyses of US ‘civil society’ actors in Latin America, for example, shows how many are backed (or established) by government agencies or business interests. These asymmetrical relationships of state power, with pseudo-civic organisations promoting national interests, complicate discourses on civil society (Robinson, 2005a).

Regardless, NGOs / INGOs / CSOs represent an important strand of participation at forums. Glasius and Timms write that INGOs, through the 1990s, began the custom of attending, engaging and participating in large global meetings, such as international UN summits. The Earth Summits of Rio in 1992 and Johannesburg in 2002, by way of opening up to increasing levels of extra state participation, allowed them a place in meetings, even if officially outside it. Attending summits became a norm for many working within INGOs (Glasius, 2004, p. 191). Critically, Smith argues disatisfaction with years of ineffectual UN conferences (Rio / Beijing / Copenhagen) led to a desire for an alternative venue, prefiguring the important of the WSF(P) (Smith, 2008b, p. 17).

The formation and work of particular INGOs like CIVICUS and the Third World Forum’s (TWF) World Forum for Alternatives closely parallel the formation of the WSF. CIVICUS was conceived as a global alliance for citizen participation, a strengthening of civil society and participation in the public sphere. Since 1995 it has held bi-annual world assemblies with over 600 member organizations in over 100 countries.6 It is also very active in the WSF(P). The TWF’s World Forum for Alternatives was also an early process to develop a framework for alternative globalisation. It was intended to create a network of progressive organisations that were positive in orientation (proposing alternatives, not just critique). It produced a manifesto for alternative globalisation in 1997 which foreshadowed the alternative globalism of the WSF (Glasius, 2004, p. 191).


The ‘Other’ Summits

Alternative summits critiquing orthodox economics date back to the early ‘80s, prefiguring the WSF by decades. The Popular Summit, held in Ottawa in 1981, was one of the first of such meetings (this Summit was again held in 1995 in Halifax, Canada). An alternative to the Ottawa Economic Summit, it attracted some 60 organisations representing peace, environmental and left issues.7 Protests held in conjunction with the Summit attracted over 5,000 people, many voicing opposition to the US’ support of the then repressive government of El Salvador (with its School of the Americas (SOA) trained assassination squads). ‘The Other Economic Summit’ (TOES) followed this; TOES as an event was run concurrently with the G7 meeting of countries (as an alternative event to that meeting). TOES / UK became the New Economics Foundation, a key proponent of ‘relocalisation’.8

While TOES only intended to hold meetings every 7 years, from 1988 to 1996 it held meeting every year, in France - in the UK, US, Japan, Germany, Italy, Australia and elsewhere (Schroyer, 1997). TOES was remarkably similar to the WSF(P) in various ways. It was a critique of orthodox economics from a variety of perspectives, presenting alternatives to the existing global policy regime. Like the WSF, TOES was a counter forum (aimed at the G7 rather than Davos). It became an ongoing process, an ongoing space where people could gather and deliberate. In fact, many of the individuals active in TOES also became active in the WSF(P). The alternatives presented at TOES are echoed, in part, through the WSF(P). Unlike the WSF(P), however, TOES took place in the wealthy and industrialised ‘North’.

Another very important precursor to the WSF(P) was the ‘Other Davos’ Summit in Zurich (28-29th, Jan., 1999). This aimed to develop a coherent resistance to the neo-liberal project. The four organisations that organised this were the Coalition against the OECD backed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), the Structural Adjustment Participatory Review International Network (SAPRIN), the World Forum of Alternatives and ATTAC (Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens).

This meeting brought together over 60 representatives from various organisations opposed to neo-liberalism, seeking greater clarification of positive propositions. The group produced a manifesto-like document called ‘For Another Davos’. The Other Davos demonstrated the possibility of convergence on shared frameworks, processes and content. It also foreshadowed the WSF’s role as a counter-Davos forum (Houtart, 2001, pp. 80-112).


Rise of ‘Anti’ Globalisation: Zapatismo and the Protest Circuit

The ‘Battle of Seattle’ in 1999, in which a rainbow coalition of diverse actors came together to shut down the WTO meeting, is often credited as the beginning of an ideologically diverse anti-globalisation movement. In fact, resistance to neo-liberalism prefigured the Battle of Seattle by decades. Protests against IMF / World Bank efforts to introduce or maintain SAPs, (which accompanied TNC acquisition of privatised resources), emerged in South America, Africa and Asia in the 1980s and 1990s, in the ‘countries that have been most deeply impacted by globalization’ (Smith, 2008b, p. 15).

Protests against the G6 / G7 (now G8 / G20) group of countries date back to before the World Economic Summit meeting in Versailles in 1982, which have been continuous and ubiquitous for almost 30 years (see Appendix P). However the defeat of the MAI in 1998 (Goodman, 2000) and the disruption of the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999 signalled a new level of integration between counter hegemonic actors. First was an emerging willingness between very diverse groups to work together against a ‘common enemy’ and toward shared interests, through tactical resistance to neo-liberal initiatives. Secondly was a new integration between Northern and Southern spheres of activity. Since the Battle in Seattle in 1999 a ‘summit hopping’ protest movement has continued to disrupt international meetings, with varying degree of success and failure in cities such as Genoa, Melbourne, Washington DC, Prague, Quebec, Barcelona, Chiang Mai, Zurich, Hong Kong and many other locales (see Appendix Q). (See the account of G20 Convergence in this thesis as one example.)

Anti-globalisation protests drew inspiration and knowledge from the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico. The Zapatistas launched their armed struggle on January 1st 1994, the first day of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), as a statement against racist treatment by the Mexican state, and against the threat posed by corporate globalisation to their livelihoods. Their strategic ‘global framing’ through new media approaches communicated a prismatism that prefigured the WSF(P) – theirs was a local struggle and a planetary one, a 500 year struggle against colonialism and racism as well as a contemporary one. Their uprising catalysed international solidarity, which culminated in 1996 in the First Intercontinental Meeting for Humanity and Against Neo-liberalism (Steger, 2009, p. 102). Their savvy use of (digital) media, poetic culture jamming, and extensive networking prefigured the ICT intensive strategies used by the anti-globalisation movement (and AGM) (Castells, 1996). They were dubbed by the New York Times as the first ‘postmodern revolutionary movement’ (Gautney, 2010, p. 40). Zapatismo as a cultural formation was also foundational, leading to the formulation of key organisational ‘hallmarks’ in the nascent AGM which defined ‘the network as one without formal membership or leadership, and emphasized a shared commitment to decentralized, autonomous (independent) modes of organization and opposition to capitalism’ (Gautney, 2010, p. 40). Their ideas for a post neo-liberal world that contained organisational diversity and pluralism, a horizontalist utopianism, clearly prefigured the utopianism of the WSF(P) (Smith, 2008b, p. 20). The Zapatista inspired Peoples Global Action (PGA), a network which emerged from the 1996 encuentro in Chiapas, became an important cornerstone of the new network processes in the anti-globalisation movement (Gautney, 2010, p. 40). The WSF(P) contained organisationally what the AGM expresses culturally: a movement toward a diversity of struggles in relationship, rather than a unitary movement with a set agenda. Tormey explains the cultural logic of horizontalism this way:

The movement not only resists neoliberal capitalism, but incorporation into an ideology and movement dedicated to overcoming neoliberal capitalism. Symbolic of this double-negation, this Janus face of the movement, was the issuing by Marcos in 2003 of a declaration entitled ‘I Shit on all the Revolutionary Vanguards of this Planet.’ (Tormey, 2005, p. 2)

Thus one of the key historical shifts that links the WSF(P) to the AGM is a movement away from fixed agendas or singular visions, whether from the left or right of political persuasions. The AGM contains a diversity of actors despite political differences, struggling to work together. Culturally, the AGM expresses resistance to assimilation into any single ideology - indeed its epistemological diversity stems from the inherent ontological diversity of its construction. The WSF(P) addresses the challenge of this social complexity through a variety of strategies, open space approaches and an espoused inclusivity (via an ideology of ‘horizontalism’), which is explored in the next section, and problematised in the concluding chapter."


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