• tunisG3 contribution2-en

last modified September 10, 2013 by facilitfsm

In defense of the "model " of the FSM

( Comments text " WSF : the challenges of post- mobilization altermundialism " )

Text Mauri Cruz , 08 , 2013 - TunisG3 contribution1 en -

Chico Whitaker


I would not say so peremptorily , as the first sentence of this text, " that the model ( FSM) started in Porto Alegre in 2001 is exhausted ." Perhaps the words "model " and " exhausted " do not exactly reflect the author's thought about the always necessary revision of the WSF process .

But considering these words and the strong meaning they have, I would say , rather, on the contrary  that the WSF still has - in the fight against neoliberalism , its stated goal - a long walk ahead with its current "model " , which is essential to it . More so if we consider the questions raised within the social struggle , the great " novelty " of our times that are  to so called " new social movements " .


It can be said that the organizational form that these movements have adopted exactly coincides with  what is most innovative in the "model " of social forums : they are civil society meetings open , horizontal (without command structure , direction or representation ) , built bottom-up ( self organized activities ) , without a final declaration , and claiming to be, autonomous in relation to political parties and governments.


Does reviewing  the " model" of the WSF  means " verticalizing it " ? It does not seem that this is the required review. But , should this happen , WSF will lose its characteristics  and lose meaning for many of its participants , because it will be abandoning  something that appears very necessary in today's world : the search for a new political culture . And it is this "model " that turns out to a space especially cozy for the " new social movements " . And it is the entry of these movements in the WSF process that can reinvigorate its "model " .


It is worth Remembering  that it was the careful respect  of options that determine the "model " ( explained in the WSF Charter of Principles ), which ensured the success of the WSF 2013 in Tunisia , and that was the denial of some of these options that led to the emptying  of the Forum European Social trapped by political forces that wanted to " steer " the debates . That is, if the innovations of the WSF process may not always lead to the overcoming of all the old practices , these innovations need to be further deepened and consolidated .


The search for a new political culture has a lot to do with one of the main questions posed by new movements : the kind of democracy we live in ( with their 'representation' systems, always  pyramidal ) and  the " power" ( economic and political ) that settles  in them. They want " direct democracy " , which is much more than " participatory democracy." That is, they do not want to "participate" in the decisions made by the verticalized powers  of governments and parties , legitimizing  them (same for social organizations which turn bureaucratic, such as unions or more directive social movements) . They challenge decisions made by " representatives " that install in these power positions , and want to have a voice in decision-making , from the bottom up , autonomously .


Now , the "spaces " created in the WSF process offered to civil society the possibility ( which did not exist ) to hold worldwide meetings independently from  parties and governments and their structures vertical direction , representation and control . As this - which was one of its big asset - the WSF could begin to " liberate " it , so to speak , "from  these institutions , which hitherto monopolized political action ( and controlled the action of civil society ) .

Thus , it could become a new kind of political actor, full body , autonomous, characterized by diversity and pluralism . And it was the " model" of the WSF who protected ( though not always ... ) from contamination with internal power struggles to command and direct , characteristics of parties and governments . It is therefore appropriate that it continues to fulfill this role .


But this new kind of political actor – an horizontal and diverse civil society without leadership structures - also need to " talk" to the pyramids of power of  parties and governments . This will be even more necessary as it  strengthens  more as a political actor . This need is placed in the text that I comment here . But we know how fragile its autonomy is , and with which appetite parties and governments take advantage of the loopholes that open up to " penetrate " in the spaces of the WSF and try to control it and direct it ( and with it , again, civil society .) That is, in this respect also the strengthening of the "model " of the WSF can help not to go backwards .


To make possible this " conversation" , another innovation might be very useful ,that was not born with the WSF but was highly valued in the process : the network social organization. This new way of organizing is exactly characterized by horizontality , which is essential to the "model " of the Forum and is particularly suited to "civil society " : rather than attempting to " unify " it , reducing it to "basis" of pyramidal structures, network respects heterogeneity and even fragmentation of civil society . Such characteristics of civil society are not really a problem but an asset. Thus, to " hear" what civil society has to say , we would have to use more fully the principles of operation of networks - including drawing upon the potential offered by current intercommunication  technology .

These principles would be useful also to the WSF process itself , for example on its way to decide internally on the organization of forums .


We know moreover that capital attempts to create  what facilitates corporate life ( and increase corporate profits ) : in a worldwide market , a uniform mass of consumers , insatiable and individualistic buyers of same products , which in turn are produced torturando (?)literally, the nature and humans . We know that I this it has come a long way(let us hope it never fully succeed totally ) . Its logic is now fully " globalized " . Very few " islands " in which non capitalists economic and social paradigms are attempting to assert themselves , the hard way(Cuba ? Bhutan? Zapatistas territories ? ) . Even China , the last " socialist " stronghold had to call its economic system " market socialism " , to relate commercially with the rest of the world .


Now , in the broader perspective of the struggle against neoliberalism , the practices tested in the " model" of the WSF , encouraging autonomy and respecting diversity , go in the direction exactly opposite to the capital. And it can be seen , in the  forums ,that there is also the  resistance of alternative production that meets the real needs , the struggle for respect for nature and the workers , the effort towards consumer awareness and solidarity . Strengthen the " model" of the WSF , which allows all this to emerge and interconnect , is therefore in itself a way to combat the power of capital .


The new social movements also question the traditional structures of civil society itself , such as trade unions and NGOs , also generally pyramidal in their  organization , as well as the " social movements " organized vertically , with direction and representation structures . Now , with these questions they lead us to reflect on certain choices made in the implementation of  the” model " of the WSF , throughout the process .


At its inception it was intended to limit participation in the forums  to " organized " citizens - that is, the people who participate in some form of social organization , such as labor unions , NGOs and " social movements " then existing . Naturally this condition had to be respected also in the " organization " Committee of  Forums :  its members " represented" necessarily such social organizations .


The limitation as to participation in the forums was immediately broken by its own participants, even in its first edition . Four-fifths of those who came did  not " represent"  organizations  nor were sent by them. They participated in their personal capacity . Little by little, this limitation was abandoned , until it disappeared completely .


The question that arises now is therefore the composition of the Organizing Committees for the Social Forums - for some time called " Facilitation " Committees ( better name for  the new political culture in construction) . With the Forums necessarily open to participants of the new social movements , how can  these movements be present in these committees ? Here again organizational novelty of " networks " can serve . And in this case even more the potential offered by current intercommunication  technology.


Today many consider that the crisis faced by the WSF International Council - consisting only of social organizations that send  to it  their " representatives " - is due to bureaucratization that the system of " representation " causes . The solution that may be given in the frame of Forum Facilitation Committees can perhaps help solve this crisis .


Another much contested aspect of the WSF  "model " FSM is that their meetings are reduced to moments of " reflection " and " discussion." In this perspective, it would be running out because it proves " unable " to react to the gravity and urgency of action. But action without reflection ( prior or simulatneous) only leads to disaster and dead ends . And as the WSF is not a movement that acts and makes (who act and make are the participants and the organizations they are part of , independently ) , it becomes essential just like a " space " for discussion and reflection that movements can freely use (in which both the complaint and the proposition of actions can be hosted ). Since there are no other such spaces , open to diversity that characterizes participation in WSFs .


It was indeed from the need to "reflect" and " discuss " , which is always better when you have accurate focus , that another novelty of the WSF process emerged : the ability to create spaces for specific discussion around particular goals. These are Thematic Social Forums , which have multiplied around the world opening many new avenues of struggle. In addition, as one cannot resist capital only within " national " spaces, such social forums ( and even " local " ) end up being necessarily open to international participation .


In short , instead of saying that the WSF "model " WSF " is exhausted , we would say that it "flourished " . But this has happened so far ( in fact , just started ) only within civil society . In other words,  in the context of a struggle against an economy that is not liberal ( as it calls himself ) but extremely authoritarian ( even with the use of weapons ) and subjected to the interests of capital, WSFs (with its "model " ) have still a lot to contribute , so that we succeed  in changing our own structures in civil society and  to overthrow the dominant political and economic structures .


But I will not prolong too much these reflections – as  today what most do is reflect to try to understand what is going on with all the mobilizations that shake the world ...


So , to conclude, I would say that if we say that our POA Social Forum in January 2014 locates itself within the WSF process , we must , first, reaffirm clearly ( without fear ) , it serves to discuss and not to act ( because, as I said above , who act is not a forum but people and organizations that participate in it - and they can even do it during the Forum itself , but not in its name ) . And if we say that it is thematic , we have , secondly , to define clearly what is its "theme" in the struggle against capital .


An example of a theme , just to liven up the discussion: " new forms of resistance to capital in today's world ." A title that implies the necessary participation of " new social movements " and would involve a lot of subtitles that add reflections on democracy (and in it the political parties ) and the economy , as well as the gaps that the crisis in the capital today is in opening for us to " create" ( since " to resist is to create " as someone once said ) the "other possible world" of real democracy and social justice .


September 4, 2013