The World Social Forum: a fantasy letter to the cosmopolitan bourgeoisie

wsf.jpgThis year edition of the World Social Forum was held between 20 to 25 January in Nairobi, attended by about 60000 people. There is a good article by Patrick Bond, which accounts for the limitations and contradictions of this year edition. The article also reviews some of the debates within the movements on the way forward.

Few days ago, another article by Immanuel Wallerstein appeared on the International Herald Tribune, in which he celebrates the alter-globalist hitting their stride. The substance of the argument put forward to the readers of this great newspaper of the cosmopolitan bourgeoisie, is twofold. First, we have many networks. Second we have many manifestos, hence “alternatives”. mmmh, I am wandering whether these are real advances in relation to previous editions of the WSF. But also, what is the purpose of writing to the cosmopoltan bourgeoise in these terms? In light of the many disheartening facts reported by the Patrick Bond article I was fantasizing, in a political fiction fashion, what a different type of social force would the global movements be if the substance of our argument put to the IHT was something like this:

dear liberal cosmopolitan bourgeoise, you have often demonstrated the ability to listen to demands coming from below, whether these were labour struggles in the 1930’s Detroit, or environmental and community struggles against displacement in some part of the global South. Of course, your way to listen to these struggles never looses sight to what you are really concerned about, which you share with your cousins, the less “liberal” but still neo-liberal bourgeoise, and that is, to use old terms we still find useful, capital’s accumulation. Hence you are open to manifestos and alternatives coming from us, and you have intelligence and flattering modes — not to talk about the resources you are able to mobilise when you have something in mind — but you are open to us in a way that we have learned to understand. You and us have many things in common, especially when we cast these in grand words such as “environment”, “justice”, “faireness”, and so on. However, the devil is in the details. And we have learned to understand that in the details you want to link our common preoccupations (the grand words) with practices that promote and are compatible with endless capital accumulation. This, in turn, reproduces the problems anew for us: increased wealth and income polarisations, dispossessions, criminalisation of struggles, wars, environmental degradation and global warming, and so on so forth. Hence, let us make a deal, once and for all. Let us agree do disagree. You like the reproduction of livelihoods on this planet to be through endless competition and accumulation. We like to reproduce livelihoods in solidarity and conviviality. OK? Right, we have now a problem, you see. We do not question your right to pursue happiness the way you want, but in order to pursue happiness the way we want, we need two things: first, you — together with your cousins — stop promoting the neo-liberal policies that put everybody in a situation to follow your ways, and reverse several of them (we will find ways to discuss the details beginning the next social forum for example); second, we need to access more of the resources we have produced with our combined waged and unwaged labour and that are now heavily concentrated in your hands (have you read the string of UN reports in the last two decades accounting for this?). Again, we can put forward the details of what we want after a series of participatory consultations with planetary movements. So, here is what we want generally speaking. This way, you can continue running your rushed life if this is what you like, and we have space and resources to build and reconstruct ours. We might, from time to time, join your rush few weeks a year, just to get the buzz and some extra fancy goods, and then go back to our transnational communities were we can be of better use to them, better valued in our dignity and also recover our sanity after we have lost it in the rush. Oh, by the way, since we will have often to share the same territory, it is important we learn to be good neighbours. So, for example, on the question of enviromental “externalities” (as you like to call them) . . .ehm, you see, you value competition and profit and all that, but that often means increasing the planet temperature, and wildlife and fish drawn in shit, and destruction of livelihoods for many of us . . .hence, make sure that your competitive pursual of profit does not mean our and nature’s “internalisation” of your cost externalisation. . .one thing we are really opposed to is that you are going to tell us that global warming and environmental degradation can be a profit opportunity . . .actually, some is already saying this . . .no no, sorry mate, we like prevention . . .

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