The World Social Forum 2007 Nairobi -
A reformist and counter-revolutionary international
Crises under capitalism
Capitalism in decay is taking the whole of humanity along to its grave. Countless numbers of the world working classes, the poor, the youth and other vulnerable people perish under capitalism because of poverty, diseases and wars; at the same time, the whole planet is endowed with plenty to meet the needs of everybody. The greed for exorbitant profits by big capital and their agents such as the World Bank, is pushing the crust of the planet into the abyss. The concrete situation of the world working classes and the poor, demands concrete united action of the world working class through struggles against the world capitalist-imperialist exploitation.
The World Social Forum - Why now?
The neo-colonial countries of the world (such as South Africa, Ghana, etc) are under the jackboot of international capital and imperialism. The nationalist regimes ruling these countries, put the interests of the capitalist first, through the privatisation of state resources and other capitalist measures; they do not care about the suffering of their constituencies who voted them into power. Capitalism creates contradictions. The treacherous and petty bourgeois leadership in the labour movement has weakened the struggles of the workers by siding with the bosses. When organised workers lose their jobs they become more vulnerable and end up disorganised in the communities. When the youth cannot get jobs, the whole joke of ‘freedom’ and capitalist democracy, dawns on them. Capitalism-imperialism are more and more worried about the army of the unemployed and the exploited, militant and hungry, it has created.
This army, disgruntled and tired of being duped by meagre promises, has begun to take their struggles beyond the control of the nationalist regimes. The bankruptcy of the current working class leadership is shown by them demanding piecemeal reforms without confronting the system – capitalism. These reformist leaders come to the rescue of capitalism-imperialism across the world time and time again. We have been always saying that at the time of crises the middle classes side with the working class enemy, the bourgeoisie (the class of capitalists). A number of NGO’s flourish with funds in their hands, pretending to take up struggles of the masses but misdirecting these into a dead-end; the NGO’s create dependency of our struggles on the same capitalist class we are fighting. Capitalism-imperialism consciously invests in this reformist leadership by funding the WSF with millions of Rands (or dollars) in order for it to be under its control. Capitalism imperialism is preparing another layer of reformist leadership to tame the militancy of the unemployed and exploited youth, who are currently under no one’s control.
The 7th World Social Forum (WSF) took place on the 20 – 25th January 2007 in Kasarani, Nairobi Kenya. The first WSF was held in Porto Alegre, Brasil in the year 2001; it then went to Mumbai, then Bamakoto, Caracas, Karachi and recently to Nairobi. This year’s World Social Forum was attended by more than 65 000 people from social movements, people dwelling in slums and world parliamentarians; participants came from over one hundred and forty countries from five continents. In other words, parliamentarians, NGO’s and church leaders – agents of state violence against the working class in the respective countries, were given an ‘equal’ footing with the victims of state violence and capitalist exploitation. Representatives of the exploiters and representatives of the exploited were gathered in one forum to ‘plan’ for another world, that is, as long as the world system of capitalist exploitation and oppression was left intact. A glaring absence was the representatives of the industrial working class- there were very few trade union members present. The organised industrial working class is being deliberately kept out of the gathering by the reformist leaders of their respective unions. This is because the trade union leaders are still playing an effective role in controlling the working class in their respective countries; further, a strong presence of the industrial working class would open up the possibility of a real challenge to world capitalism, something the imperialist backers of the WSF fear.
The WSF has an International Council consisting of a decision making body made by 100 organisations from all the continents. The WSF is promoted as a ‘space’ for the social movements, ‘civil society’ and NGO’s to linkup, struggle and for solidarity. The WSF process is not an attempt to create “world revolutionary vanguard movement” nor is it a rebirth of an international “united front” to overthrow the capitalist regimes around the world – rather it is an international talk shop for the masses merely to air their anger and frustration. Marx has criticised such movements that have existed since the beginning of capitalism as keeping struggles within the framework of capitalism and not aiming to over throw it. The WSF is therefore a reformist international.
The World Social Forum is led by capitalist intellectuals, professors and reformist activists. Socialist organisations are not allowed to attend but churches and capitalist parliamentarians are welcomed. There were more than 4000 churches mobilized in the 2007 WSF in Nairobi. Archbishop Desmund Tutu was brought in to talk about ‘human rights and culture’. This Chairperson of the South African ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’, one of the greatest cover-ups of human rights abuses of all time, came to give advice on how and why the downtrodden masses should ‘turn the other cheek’. The slogan of the World Social Forum is, “Another World is Possible”. As there is no route, vehicle or programme stated to get to this possible world, it means that the working class must wait for another life for its emancipation. The Organising Committee commented that this year’s WSF was the most successful social forum for the ecumenical community. The Charter of Principles of the World Social Forum denounces radical politics. The WSF provided a platform for reformist leaders to gain respectability among the downtrodden masses. The honest activists’ fighters who are embracing this platform should realise that they are aboard a train heading for a dead end. The real destination of the WSF is “Another world is possible – as long as it is capitalist”.
South Africa and the rest of Africa
The delegation from South Africa was composed of about 250 delegates from social movements, community based organisation and NGO-activists; industrial workers were absent. There was little or no time to prepare for the WSF. There was little community participation in the build up to the WSF. The few community activists who were funded to go, went there unprepared. The programme to discuss international community struggles was issued when delegates arrived in Kenya. Each activist received a R1400,00 -R1500, 00 stipend, in addition to airfare, from international funders. Thus the cost for the SA delegation, including airfare was over R1 million. The activists’ venues for sleeping were at the University and other two places. A sponsor for the South African delegation was the Human Rights Foundation. Another sponsor for the African activists was the ALISC Network, the African Liberation Support Campaign, London. The sponsorship was from London, Sheffield, Glasgow, Belfast and Armagh (North of Ireland). In London, fundraising was led by ALISC Network members and contacts. One Cameroonian delegate was sponsored by contributions from within Cameroon.
(The ALISC Network comes out of the Kwame Nkrumah influenced legacy, the reformist Pan Africanist ‘solution’ to Africa’s problems. The ALISC Network is a UK network. Its fundamental principles are African self-determination, that is, nationalist. )
The World Social Forum itself- excluding the working class
The main venue was 30km away from the sleeping venues. The WSF 2007 Nairobi was promoted by the organisers to be an opportunity to showcase Africa and her social movements. There were 21 streams of sessions to attend, such as symposia, seminars, workshops, cultural resistance, celebrations, panels, etc, instead of the 9 that had been previously agreed upon. The entire organization of the Forum, it preparation and process were deliberately designed to fragment struggles and exclude real mass participation. There was no orientation before hand to the venues of the sessions. There were sessions on Palestine, discussions on Socialism in the 21st century, on wars, etc. Most sessions were talk shops without a plan of action. In fact plans of action were developed in outline, outside of the organised sessions. Some professors and intellectuals were praising the South African government for their support for the Palestinians, as the shining example where boycotts and sanctions effectively put down the apartheid government. The AntiWar activists from South Africa had to intervene by exposing that the current SA government is continuing its trade with ‘Israel’ and is determined not to stop.
The South African AntiWar activists met with the Kenyans, Palestinians, Lebanese, Iraqis, Cubans, Brazilians middle class activists, etc. They assisted the Palestinians in mobilisation for their march. It was visibly clear that the locals (working class and poor peasantry from among the Kenyans) were not inside the forum and the constituency were mostly from the Northern Hemisphere. Grassroots people were given little chance to talk or were virtually nowhere to be seen.
It was heard that the Kenyans were being charged KSH 500 entrance fee to attend and could not afford it. Delegates were forced to buy bottled water every day (being afraid that if they drank from tap water they would end up in hospital). The SA delegates assisted the working class and impoverished Kenyans to fight for free entrance and cheap food inside the venue. After a successful battle, Kenyans were allowed free entry into the forum. An Organising Committee representative said they are not selling water (responding to the demand of the demonstrators for free water). The Kenyan minister of Internal Security had his restaurant operating inside the venue, selling food at high prices. Later it was closed down because of activists’ demands that those who cannot afford it must get food free. Kenyan children help themselves to a free meal. A Cellphone company had exclusive rights to communications at the forum, itself an indicator of the capitalist nature of the gathering.
All of the above happened because the multi-class nature of the forum as shown by the theme for this 7th edition of the Nairobi WSF: “People’s struggles, People’s Alternatives”. The Minister had the right to be in the forum and selling food because the Charter of Principles of the WSF allows parliamentarians to be there. The term “People’s struggles, People’s Alternatives” includes the capitalist, and the Minister who were also providing capitalist alternatives. An IFAT member who was part of the Organising Committee also commented that the WSF is a space for ‘solidarity economy’ and ‘fair trade’, and for the first time opened up ‘spaces’ for Africans. It means that African capitalist were now welcomed, whereas in the past, this ‘space’ was occupied exclusively by the international capitalist. Again, perhaps the honest activists wittingly/unwittingly embracing this platform of the WSF lack revolutionary theory or they are themselves reformist and petty-bourgeios types.
The Social Movements Assembly
By the end of the World Social Forum activists coming from social movements, campaigns and networks converged as the Social Movements Assembly. About 2000 activists attended to listen to the resolutions and actions planned by different groups. There was a call for mobilisation against the G8 countries in 2 June. In 2008 there will be an international day of action by all the groups fighting for social services, against wars, etc. It was reported that the International Council would hold a meeting on the 27- 28th January to formalise and update the resolutions. Some of the activists in the assembly were raising contradictory statements and reformist proposals that do not challenge the root cause of our exploitation, namely capitalism. Here are some of the points raised by different activists in the Social movements assembly:
- A speaker from Niger made a call for the WSF to be prudent in struggles, saying there must be no discrimination in the WSF and they believe that the forum has the ability to make a change. ( we say: the direction of the change is questionable)
- The Uhuru Network from Zimbabwe announced their struggle there against dictatorship and for houses. On the 28th May they are calling for an International Day of action against Zimbabwean government on its housing policy. (Working class solidarity is needed)
- The IT raised resolutions proposed by 40 organisations on debt. They were saying the debt impoverishes most and enrich others. They were saying it is also a political issue used by the Northern imperialist governments. Its effects are socially and ecological. They are saying Southern governments/countries must refuse to pay debt. On the 14- 16th October they are calling for solidarity support. (The debt organizations have illusions that ‘southern’ governments are not pro-capitalist/pro-imperialist)
- The Italy Labour and Globalisation speaker said the social movements need workers to fight social problems. They questioned the absence of the organised working class. They want action and say we must act together; also saying they will support the global actions. After every speaker there would be a noise of supporting each speaker and clapping of hands. But for the Italian woman there was deafening silence. The only people loudly applauding were from the Anti-War delegates from South Africa. (This is a measure of the dominance of middle class perspectives for the WSF).
- The Anti- War Assembly reported on their resolutions saying Stop the war and bring troops home; Close all US military bases in Iraq; Stop regional wars in Palestine and Iraq; Calls were made for Boycott, Sanctions and Disinvest against Israel; Stop threats to Iran; Troops out of Afghanistan; Stop supporting military groups in other countries and Stop attacks in Somalia. The full documents of the resolutions are still being awaited.
- A Brazilian speaker for workers said the forum represent actions against imperialism. He quoted the words of a Mozambican writer, Augustino that “it is not enough our course is just….the fight for transformation needs action”. The speaker said that unfortunately it is not what we see in this WSF. Action is necessary in Latin America to bring us together. They said that they will support the 20th March 2007 antiwar action. Action brings together movement for next social forum. He finished by saying “take US troops away from Haiti”. (Action without a perspective towards Socialism will also lead the working class nowhere).
- The Kenyans were calling for the government to go. (Unfortunately there was no perspective for the Kenyan working class to organise themselves into a revolutionary workers party)
- A Ghana/Water activist was calling for water to be democratically controlled by all. A network on water activism was launched. They declared war on water privatisation. (The fight for water for all must be linked to the fight against the system)
- A Climate Justice speaker was saying climate change is an issue of justice. They are calling for a global day of action. (Capitalism is the cause of climate degeneration).
- A Students Organisation Council called for youth to take lead in the movements and in the struggle for free education. (Students struggles should be allied to struggles against the capitalist system and should thus be in support of working class struggles)
- One of the South African speakers was the secretary of the SMI, Mondli. He said “the decision of the Durban SMI meeting was to continue its commitment of being against NEPAD”. He said that “SA is playing an imperialist role in the continent and the SMI will continue to expose this. South African companies are taking the continent. Xenophobia is rising in SA. They are opposed to any form of privatisation. They will support the 20th March of the Anti- War Coalition against US imperialism and the SMI will make that day successful”. (The SMI leaders use anti-imperialist rhetoric as a cover for its reformist politics – see our article on the SMI).
From all of the above you can see that the honest activists fighting against privatisation, for a meaningful change in their lives and communities, are caught up in a marsh. All the aims and meaningful actions of the world masses under this platform, the WSF, will evaporate.
The WSF is reformist. It is here to turn the meaningful struggles of the masses away from attacking the main enemy, namely capitalism, which creates privatisation, unemployment, suffering, etc, for the whole of humanity. These reformist leaders accept the exploitation by capital but denounce the war-like face of it. When funds dry up there will be no WSF. The reformist World Social Forum is no accident. It is a conscious decision by the capitalist-imperialist to give legitimacy to the reformist leadership to counter the revolution. This is a powerful force which capitalism is building to assist it in time of its crises. What is really needed is a revolutionary working class International, leading the working class masses of the world to an overthrow of the world capitalist system. We say that another world is possible and it should be Socialist/Communist.