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World Social Forum 2020: Movements in the context of Movements

Matt Meyer, responding to the question: What is the nature of the world today, within which the WSF exists and in relation to which it must act?   

We are surely living in a “best of times, worst of times” era—with challenges and opportunities unlike any of us have faced in at least a generation. At this time of apparent darkness all around us, it is our action now and in the very near future which will determine whether we emerge into a season of light, a spring of hope; whether the collective wisdom we share can be brought together such that movements of movements can emerge and collaborate to bring about a level and depth of global social change similarly unprecedented over the past century. Peace research pioneer Johan Galtung a dozen years ago wrote of the inevitable and forthcoming end of the empire known as the United States of America. Galtung predicted, like he successfully did more than a quarter-century earlier regarding the demise of the Soviet Union, that the US empire would give way—either in the direction of decentralized, democratic socialistic beloved communities or in a hyper-militarized fascism. [https://www.transcend.org/tms/2019/07/johan-galtung-predictions-fall-of-u-s-empire-end-to-u-s-wars/]. As struggle between those camps heightens within the US at this moment, the world suffers and struggles with the inevitably violent thrashings of a dying regime. Anticipating, preparing for and resisting this direct and structural violence must be a hallmark of our work no matter what happens in the US electoral arena.

Brazilian educator Ana Garcia has adeptly summarized that the emerging regional sub-imperialist super-powers, the “BRICS” governments, financial institutions and major economic groups, “progress according to the convergence between state and capital, as they take forward accumulation strategies that worsen the concentration of wealth.” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Rwh16q1P4w]. It is therefore no surprise that despite competitions within and between regions, the push for intensified enclosures in both the literal and figurative sense abounds at this time. Here in the US, what we are seeing national in both health care, education, and security/policing sectors federally and on every level is part and parcel of this trend. On-line schooling is thus depended upon from safety perspectives but also built upon as a current and future opportunity to further privatize, contain, and disempower all aspects of educational institutions and critical thinking. However, there is growing fightback. As a conclusion but also segue to our further discussions today, I am excited to report that the various coalitions which have emerged here in politically under-developed US, mostly led by Black liberation forces from the US South, are among the least sectarian, most diverse and robust we have experienced in many a year. [https://generalstrike.mayfirst.org/].

It worth noting that this crisis period—not merely COVID-19 related, but of a neoliberal-neoconservative “convergence” of the past several years—has seen several critical initiatives which transcend old models of thinking and coalescing, beyond past failures of the left. The creation of the First Eco-socialist International not only built upon the theoretical approaches put forward by eco-feminist, indigenous, or environmentalist-Marxist options of the past, but put into dialogue the practitioners of grassroots alternatives from throughout the Global South. Thus over one hundred representatives from dozens of nations and peoples came together in the small African-centered communities of Veroes, Venezuela in 2017 to share practices of bartering, water-gathering, and organization. [http://ecosocialisthorizons.com/2017/12/the-first-ecosocialist-international-combined-strategy-and-plan-of-action/]. With support from the Resistance Studies Network and Initiative, the still-colonized peoples of West Papua, Western Sahara, Palestine, Tibet, Kashmir, Puerto Rico, Kurdistan/Rojava, and Ambazonia have begun to meet with solidarity activists and others still struggling for greater sovereignty, in a new effort for redefining strategies and tactics for our times (for a beginning of this, see: https://wagingnonviolence.org/rs/2019/12/150-years-after-gandhis-birth-authoritarianism-in-india-must-be-met-with-resistance/). And just in the past weeks, a multi-lingual grouping of scholars and practitioners have pulled together under the banner of “COVID-19 Global Solidarity Manifesto”—but with goals and a vision which goes well beyond the end of the current health pandemic. [https://www.covidglobalsolidarity.org/].

Within the Latin American branch of my own organization, the International Peace Research Association, our leaders have put forth a unifying call which is being echoed in different forms throughout the world: that it is time to build for “a New Normal” in the year to come. It is clear that the World Social Forum, given both its strong past history and its continuing networking capabilities, has a role to play in this period. The extent and significance of that role will be directly proportional to WSF’s attention to these new movements and grassroots groupings which are themselves providing forum for a praxis which will shape the century.