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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 5: Constructing Another Globalisation (Part II), by Riccardo Petrella, Christophe Aguiton, Charles-André Udry

What are the main directions of the alternative program proposed by Riccardo Petrella, Charles-André Udry and Christophe Aguiton? This is the subject of the second part of their text.

Let us take control of our future. The world and all of life belong to all the inhabitants of the earth. Faced with the power of the social forces which dominate the global capitalist archipelago, appropriation of the future of the planet by its inhabitants will not be easy and neither will it happen overnight.

The expropriated people of the world have experienced this truth and are progressively becoming aware that they must focus their efforts, experience and innovation on another agenda of priorities to the one followed by the “Men of Davos”. They are realising that they need an autonomous method of thought and action to construct and promote their view of the world, of society, of ethical principles, of the economy, of the social institutions. Finally, they are discovering that they have to prioritise their action, by identifying short-, medium-and long-term working areas (and objectives to achieve). The authorities don’t need to work like this. For them it is simpler: to ensure the longevity of their privileges, it is sufficient for them to be organised to exist.

1 .The Priority: the right to life for eight billion human beings who will inhabit the world in 20 years or more from now and for a sustainable global ecosystem; through a globalised welfare system.

The most significant and hardest social struggles taking place throughout the world are those concerned with access to life, to sources of life for the satisfaction of individual and collective needs for existence. This reality is borne out by the real conditions of the 5.8 billion people currently living on the earth and by the reports published in recent years by UNDP, UNEP, FAO, WHO, the World Bank, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Oxfam and the ILO.

These struggles are also coping with occupation, use and distribution of the earth, the right to eat, access to drinking water, to be kept warm. They deal with housing, having a habitat fit for human beings. They deal with the right to work, the conditions of work, the level of pay and more generally on the right to an income suitable for a ‘citizen’. The struggles include fighting for the rights of the child (International Convention of 1989) and in particular the right to organise and educate the growing number of children in work, for the freedom of trade unions, the right to strike, against company closures due to the search for greater profitability. They seek access to healthcare and to a basic education for all and everybody. They seek with the right to exist and to enjoy a minimum of security in the case of illness and accidents and the right to live in an acceptable fashion m old age.

Other issues fought for are democracy, life within a community, the respect and recognition of the basic human rights of immigrants and refugees. They should fight for the rights of the emancipation of women, against the very many types of discrimination between the sexes (male-female) linked, among other things, to the gender-based division of work and tasks, and for the equality of rights between male and female. And, finally, people are struggling for the protection of the environment and the right of future generations to inherit an inhabitable planet.

In short, this is not an exhaustive list; the priority agenda concerns living, the right to live and the right to life. And within 20 years from now there will be two billion more people in the world than today. There will be eight billion people inhabiting this earth. But, the population on the islands of the global archipelago will not increase. The two billion extra people will increase the population of the zones and regions outside of the archipelago, i.e. the cast-off, disinherited regions. Even today, the richest 20% of the population of the world accounts for 86% of global consumption compared to 72% in 1970. What percentage will this be in 20 years from now if the priorities of the ‘Men of Davos’ prevail?

Through the struggles they are engaged in, the expropriated people of the world are creating a definition of a new anthropology for global life in the 21st century. The recognition of water as being of common ownership by humanity is the most immediate and evident symbol of this new definition. It also constitutes the first concrete landmark. In the same logic can be found the capital struggle to put (once again) financial resources at the service of globalised social welfare and the creation of common wealth in terms of goods and services necessary and indispensable for the satisfaction of basic individual and collective needs.

In the framework of the other ‘agenda’, we can thus see the strategic importance of a profound revision of the debate over intellectual property rights (biotechnology, seeds, informatics) which have become key instruments, through the use of which the owners of capital and particularly finance have succeeded over the past thirty years in taking ownership or control of almost all available material and immaterial resources. It is imperative that we define a new generation of public patrimonial rights covering goods and services considered indispensable for survival and the fair and efficient functioning of society and the earth’s ecosystem.

It is clear, therefore that there is one priority, composed of three closely linked components: access to goods and services required for the satisfaction of basic vital needs (water, for example); finance at the service of globalised social welfare and the revision of intellectual property rights and the definition of public patrimonial rights.

2. The method: start by networking innovative experiences and political, social and economic struggles for another “globalisation

Some such experiences and actions can be seen in the successful action to re-conquer the earth by the farmers in Brazil or Madagascar, the initiatives for education and rural training of women in Senegal or in the exemplary battles of the South-Korean workers who demonstrated the possibility of constituting efficient inter-professional trade union organisations in the so-called emerging countries. They can be seen again in the efficient use of the internet by the Zapatist movement in Chiapas or by Amnesty International or yet again by the wives/mothers/daughters of the ‘disappeared of Pinochet’s Chile and by the mothers of Argentina’s ‘May Square’. They show in the halt which was put to the water privatisation project in Montreal by the water co-ordination and in the foundation of a city of 30,000 inhabitants in the surroundings of Lima (Villa San Salvador), inspired by the principles of full employment, housing for all and a priority for public transport. They are seen in the struggle against the MAI for the cancellation of Third World debt, the struggle against embargoes imposed by an imperial power, the United States, on entire populations who are paying the price. They exist in the campaigns for the elimination of ‘tax havens’, in new initiatives for a real change in the role of banks (eco-banks, neo-mutual banks). These are just a few examples. All of these initiatives should be joined to work alongside one another. For all of this, it is essential to learn to write’ the story of globalisation by the expropriated people, by those who are in the process of constructing a future of solidarity and sustainability.

Networks working in this direction are many and diverse in nature, ranging from radical political militancy to forms of moderate, reformist or humanitarian voluntary civil associations. Each network plays an important role, but it is time to tighten the links, to concentrate the common goal and to reinforce the community of objectives, priorities and modes of action. The development of an effective and democratic world trade union movement constitutes an essential element of the convergence process.

In terms of methodology we should give priority to the pooling of innovative experiences and struggles centred overcoming the capitalist archipelago and implementing a system of world political regulation. This should be entirely new in relation to the United Nations’ system of inter-state relations and the economic and technocratic logic of the Bretton Woods system (WB, IMF, GATT-WTO).

Starting from this pooling of synergy (of which The Other Davos is only a start) in a relatively short space of time we can achieve the objective of the definition and implementation of the story of the other globalisation. Within three or four years, it will be possible to operate, with growing political force, ‘the planetary première’.

3. Action : short-, medium- and long-term future action areas

A.   In line with the priorities of the Other Agenda’, the principle action areas for the short-term on which we should continue to work while strengthening our synergy are:

-           the finance action area, including mobilisation around projects from the ATTAC network; continuation of the struggle against any return, in any other form, of the MAI; the strengthening of action for the cancellation of Third World debt; the battle against the political independence of the central banks and the sovereignty of monetary policy; the action for the development of a “new bank”, local exchange rate systems and against the defiscalisation of enormous wealth concentrations;

-           the work and employment working area pursues action to help children and working women in Asia, Latin America, Africa as well as immigrants and the long-term unemployed in the islands of the world archipelago. In this perspective, whilst battling for the radical reduction in working hours, the major objective remains full employment across the world and on a world level;

-           the privatisation working area: this is a relatively weak group where campaigns remain limited and insufficient. Priority must be given to mobilisation against the privatisation of public transport, electricity, gas and above all water. Opposition must be urgently strengthened against the privatisation of education and social security systems as well as health. Various experiences in many continents of the world show that mobilisation in favour of the reaffirmation or recognition of water, gas and electricity, of education, health, urban transport, rail as common public goods and services, pays off over time.

B. The principal medium- and long-term working areas are:

-           The world political regulation working area or the globalisation of politics, of the state is the logical extension of the working areas on finance and privatisation. The involvement will be required around the United Nations (reorganisation), the role of continental, supranational political integration and possible regional continental economic synergies, responding to the priority needs of the population. In this respect, the risk is that the only veritable supranational continental integration in twenty years time will be European integration, which may well never realise its democratic, supranational political nature. The problem of the sovereignty of the nation state will be at the heart of this working area and, closely linked to sovereignty will arise two other questions: that of citizenship (over and above nationality) and of property (struggle against the private appropriation of material and immaterial resources by ‘intellectual property rights’; the redefinition of state property; the development on an inter-national, supra-national and world level of new forms of socialisation, of public ownership, and of mutualisation of the property).

-           The collective, global social security working area works on the dissociation between income and work, world taxation, minimum community income and universal allocation: a collection of concepts, choices and orientations which, though all dealing with the same problem, express different realities and solutions, even opposite ones. The variety of local historical situations require respect for diversity, but it demands great clarity on the part of the promoters of the other globalisation. Lack of clarity has never been the basis for coherent and effective action.

-           The media and education working area. As far as the media is concerned, this is an area where the dominant forces continue to accumulate “victory upon victory” (whether it is TV privatisation and programming, the concentration of shares, the growing commercialisation of the internet...). It is time to get organised. The success of action to guarantee the editorial independence of Le Monde Diplomatique and Alternatives Economiques in France through the creation of two Associations shows that solutions exist. It requires the promotion of increased creation of similar associations for a growing number of newspapers throughout the world. Concerning the link between media and education, it is necessary to prepare to anticipate and direct the changes, which risk exploding in the coming 5 - 10 years. We must not leave it to the logic of industry, trade and/or stato-nationalists to define and govern these changes; it is indispensable to create an alliance of citizen actions between the world of education and the world of media. The future of sustainable development largely depends on this.

-           The denuclearisation, demilitarisation and peace working area: the peace movements of the 1970s and 1980s have run out of steam. A new generation of pacifists is being born, at a time when the United States is relaunching plans for massive military investment.

We need to promote and strengthen actions supporting denuclearisation, demilitarisation and peace. In this perspective, one of the most significant tasks should deal with the implementation of rules and of peaceful economic behaviour, beyond that of competition/ rivalry/ warfare/ struggle to conquer markets and for survival. The demilitarisation of the economy as a basis for the demilitarisation of states and of society.

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