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The Other Davos: Globalization of Resistances and Struggles by Francois Houtart and Francois Polet


Published by Christava Sahitya Samithi (CSS), Thiruvalla, Kerela, India, November 2000. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.


Chapter 4: The Globalization of Social Struggles, by Samir Amin


Mr. Samir Amin already informed us of the dangers constituted by the false deregulations and the degradation of the democracy. He brings here a plea in favour of a globalization of the social struggles.

Increasing conflicts and social struggles

We have entered a new phase in history, which does not have an end; it is a phase where conflicts are exacerbated and social and political struggle is rising. The crisis has already worsened contradictions in the dominant classes within the countries of the European Union, in Russia and in the countries affected by the crisis developing (Korea, South-east Asia, tomorrow it will be Latin America, Africa and the Arab world and India). There are no guarantees that these contradictions will be resolved through democratic means. In a general fashion the dominant classes are trying to avoid a situation where the people take part in debates so that they can manipulate opinion (thus maintaining the appearance of democracy), or by planning outright violence.

These conflicts are beginning to take on international dimensions becoming struggles between states and between groups of states. Already we can see a conflict brewing between the United States, Japan and their faithful Australian ally on the one hand and China and the other Asian countries on the other. The screaming reception awaiting Vice-President Al Gore at the last OPEC summit in Kuala Lumpur is sufficient witness of this. It is not difficult to imagine the rebirth of a conflict between the United States and Russia if the latter manages to emerge from the involution, which Eltsine engaged them. The conflicts between the European Union (or certain of its members), Japan and the United States which have until now been diplomatically managed, will also take on greater importance and to express their unhappiness with those who oppose the Triad, namely Russia, China, India and the third world continents in general. Far from having contributed to reducing chauvinistic nationalism, neo-liberal globalisation has actually contributed to its increase.

At the same time the new phase is already characterised by the rise in the struggle of the working class victims of the system, whether these struggles be limited to particular sectors of these classes or encompass them in their entirety. The list becomes longer every day: the landless farmers in Brazil, salaried workers and the unemployed in some European countries, trade unions uniting the vast majority of salaried workers (such as in Korea or South Africa), the young and students encouraging the people of the towns (like in Indonesia), all are involved in the struggle.

The development of these social struggles is certain. They will certainly be characterised by wide-scale pluralism which is a characteristic of our century (and a positive one for most of us). At the roots of this pluralism we should recognise the accumulation of results gained through what is sometimes called ‘the new social movements: women, ecologists, democracy. The challenges confronting this development are of various kinds depending on the time and the place but can possibly be classed under a few large rubrics.

We need to define the elements of an alternative that is capable of uniting the struggles on a national level, where the political choices are on the table. Associating aspirations to democratisation of society with those aiming to give the management of the economy accessibility to the popular classes is probably the main concept around which the struggles can unite. This is such an important topic that the opposing forces (the political defenders of neoliberalism) will not hesitate to use their power to deflect the anger of the people and to lead them into an impasse such as represented by ethnicism or certain religious integrist attitudes.

But we also need to define the elements of popular internationalism, which is capable of giving a world scale to the struggle, and thus too positively contributing to the elaboration of a new globalisation rather than that proposed by liberalism. The framework within which this has to be done is defined by the need to defend the autonomy of the nations, to increase its acceptance and to avoid becoming shut into dead-ends of nationalism. It is clearly on a regional level that this will pose the least problem for such construction, whether is on a pan-African level, Arab unity, a Latin-American front or the European construction; they will be provided with a social progressive agenda and other regional projects.

However, we should not neglect action on a world level. The struggle is different at this level. On a political level the aim is clearly to fight American dominance and its military arrogance. In this perspective reviving the role and the functions of the UN should be one of the common objectives for the struggle of democratic political forces operating on a world level. On the level of reorganisation of the economic systems from negotiated and governed interdependence we should branch out from the old trodden paths and the enclosing corsets created by liberal globalisation (World Bank, IMF, WTO). The challenge consists in articulating in new ways the commercial interdependence (by, for example, giving a major new role in international negotiation of these problems to UNCED), monetary and financial interdependence (with a view to channeling available capital in directions which would allow the expansion of productive systems).

In this framework the construction of particular regional interdependence which could be of interest to the region (Europe, Arab world, Africa) could contribute to the construction of a pluricentral and non-imperialist world, opening up to the South (considered to be on the margins) and enabling them improved development. This would work on condition that political evolution in the north and the south of the Mediterranean and the Sahara strengthens the potential for democratic and social affirmation of the people concerned.

The objective of our intervention at this Davos (Globalization of social struggle) is not to define action programmes to be set up to achieve human, democratic, social and equal development for the people of the world. The ambition of the World Forum for Alternatives and all the organisations and individuals who wish to be associated with it is to set up working groups on each of these themes, drawing together a great diversity of analysts and social and political leaders.

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