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 1: The Globalization of Resistances and Struggles
Faced with the globalization of the capitalist economy and the social and cultural consequences this brings with it, opposition and struggle is growing but remains fragmented. It is important to combine efforts both on the level of reflection and that of action. This is the reason why coordinations are sprouting up in various part of the world in the most varied areas, but which all pull together the international initiatives already in existence.
Even though resistance takes many different forms (against the MAI, towards a jubilee year in 2000, for the Tobin tax, seeking alternatives, etc.), and even if the struggles are specific in their aims (farmers, workers, indigenous or coloured people, citizens, ecologists or women, the urban poor, etc.) and though the various co-ordination groups are numerous (Peoples Power for the XXI Century in Asia, São Paulo Forum in Latin America, etc.), all of these have a common thread: they all work to highlight the unacceptable nature of the current economic system.
Admittedly the heads of the world economy are also becoming worried as they take stock of the situation, and face up particularly to the presence of the Asian tigers, the irrational growth of the financial bubble and the extreme poverty in the world. Some of them are beginning to understand that action must be taken to control the crises, regulate financial transfers and the casino economy and to fight poverty. But the initiatives proposed by the international financial institutions or their powerful economic porte-paroles, far from being motivated by primarily humanitarian principles, are governed by the need to create new conditions under which to accumulate capital.
After 20 years of neo-liberalism working towards deregulation policies, excess privatisation, structural adjustment programmes, a weakening of the State, the struggle against socialist solutions, marginalisation or eradication of popular movements due to the need for readjustment of the accumulation process, the logic of the economic system is leading towards a neo-keynesian stance. At the same time there are proposals to involve voluntary organisations of all sorts (NGOs, Churches, etc.) in an effort to soften the blow in the most affected areas of social life.
But while all this is taking place, the logic of the system itself is not questioned. This logic aims to liberalise a market whose aim it is to encourage exchange and increase riches. This theoretical vision does not take account of the fact that the partners are not equal and that it is often the weakest who pays the cost of these operations, whether they are vulnerable due to their class, their ethnic background, their gender, their lack of political power or their cultural weakness. What is worse still is that this same logic which wants “the best to win” really means may “the strongest win”. Hence the appearance of resistances and struggles the world over.
The answer is certainly not to promote a new “International”, but rather to use the means developed and used by the economic system itself to maintain its power base, including the knowledge and information to which one has access using modern technology. This is why networks should be built and maintained and why concerted intervention on precise subjects or during meetings or decision making processes is so important.
This is the background to the formation of a group of four relatively young organisations who have decided to organise a public forum on the topic: “Globalization of the resistances and struggles: another Davos”. They will take the opportunity of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, which meets in Davos, Switzerland and at which, every year, the world powers and their economic institutions (transnational and international financial organisations) meet together. The aim is not to get involved in the agenda of this forum, but to take advantage of its presence and its repercussions in the media to sound another tone by giving voice to the social resistance movements and to critical intellectuals, while seeking alternatives to neoliberalism and the new modalities of accumulation.
Five social movements from different parts of the world will meet in Davos 30th of January 99. These organisations are: The movement of landless farmer (MST) from Brazil, a co-ordination of Trade Unions from South Korea, a farmers movement from Burkina Faso (FENOP), a Women’s, movement of Quebec and the Movement of the unemployed in France. There is no desire to represent all the movements in the world, but simply to express in the strongest terms through the voices of those who are present, a point of view held by hundreds of millions of men and women across the world. The distribution of income is becoming like a glass of champagne where 20% of the richest in the world control 82.70/o of its wealth and the poorest 60% share 4.5% of income (UNDP report, 1992). This situation must change and it is not the magic wand of the market that is going to do that.
At the meeting with the grass-roots movements will be intellectuals who hold their cause dear and work on analyses of the situation, since in order to provide focussed solutions and offer alternatives it is indispensable to arrive at a diagnostic which can globalize problems. Without minimizing the importance of the micro-dimension which is the focus of the work of so many movements and NGOs, it is nevertheless important to place these in the macro structures and to be capable of making proposals on various levels. Without omitting the conditioning of economic factors, we cannot forget the ecological effects, which should determine our future behaviour, nor the vital importance of cultural phenomenon, elements of the construction of the superiority of capitalism, but also at the base of resistance and conditions for alternatives.
The Other Davos has thus several objectives. Firstly it aims to make heard the voice of those who are protesting against the structural injustices of the current economic system; secondly it aims to raise awareness that we can plan the future differently and lay down some guidelines for the construction of networks to improve shared information and solidarity action.