By Chico Whitaker (*)
SAO PAOLO, JuL (IPS TerraViva) The World Social Form (WSF), which turned ten in January, is holding a series of forums throughout the year inspired by its well-known motto, “Another World is Possible”.
In its creation of a series of “open spaces” and civil society networks from the grass-roots to the planetary level, the WSF process is working at three levels.
The first is the implementation of a new way of doing politics by uniting those fighting for “another, possible world”.
The second is an attempt to overcome the fragmentation of civil society in a way that allows it to act in an articulate manner and yet autonomously in relation to parties and governments, as a new political actor.
The third level consists of the organisation of political actions -for those who decide to carry them out- to reach the final objective of the forums: to replace the current insatiable search for money that now dominates the planet with a new way of thinking that is concerned with the satisfaction of basic human needs.
The first two levels involve the building of principles that will shape a new political culture and are indispensable in making the “other world” possible.
The new political culture contradicts and inverts the previous certainty that the only way to build another world is to take power, and questions the assertion that to do so, every means is justified. The WSF holds that it is essential to build beforehand -or simultaneously- the foundation of a society made up of conscious, free, active, solidary citizens who acknowledge their responsibility for what happens around them and for the entire planet.
The effort to build this culture is the great contribution of the ten-year WSF process of bringing to light a transformative mode of political action.
The debate on the character of the WSF -is it a movement or a space?- will go on for many years, and it is clear that this new culture is still far from being present in today’s political actors.
The first level of action is based on the near unanimous certainty that it is always necessary to try to unify those who are a part of the same struggle. This is simply the adoption of the old proverb that “strength comes from unity”. Indeed, given the colossal power of the dominant system, the struggle to change it requires immense strength.
The path set in the first level to generate unity consisted of organizing the forums with a methodology that would free us from the culture of competition by creating its antidote, which is a basic component of a non-capitalist system: cooperation.
The second level is grounded in a more directly political conviction: the belief that to profoundly change the world in a lasting manner, all society must be involved. In other words, political and governmental action is not enough, whether they are the product of elections of revolution. Rather, for lasting changes to occur, the entire society must see them as necessary and fight for them.
Parties and governments have both the occasion and the structures to organize their political power at every level. This is not the case with sectors of society that organise themselves, and even less so at the global scale. Thus, in its charter of principles the WSF established a space reserved for the development of civil society. The document emphasises that, although members of parties and governments can participate in the forums, they cannot as such propose or organise their own activities.
This policy is not criticised by those who do not share the opinion that there can be no transformation without the participation of the whole society and argue that political parties should be able to participate with full rights and that we should jump from the first to the third level and the debate over the fight for a new economic and social logic. However, to argue this is to deprioritise the objective of developing civil society into an autonomous political actor and to subordinate forum participants to governments and political parties.
In last January’s seminar, it was not deemed necessary to evaluate in detail initiatives that would lead to the first two levels and debate moved right to the issues connected with the content of the struggle, or the third level: which political actions could lead to the final objective of the forums: how to satisfy the basic needs of all humans.
The third level of the WSF process lies in the movement of otherworldism and a focus on change at the global level. It is important to note that the characteristics of otherworldism include -like the WSF itself- the multiplicity and diversity of its components, the mass participation of civil society, the use of networks to create an organisation. Unlike the WSF, however, it could include political parties in its ranks and the support of governments.
Encountering otherworldism in the third level of the process, the WSF can neither take its place nor compete with it. What the WSF should do therefore is strengthen otherworldism with the new networks, movements, and ideas that are generated by the forums, and continue its instrumental role in supporting the organisations that comprise it, which are interlinked by their concrete actions -whether or not under the umbrella of otherworldism- to change the world. In this context otherworldism can and should tap the experience gained in the first two levels, just as it can and should apply its reflections on political action from the third level, in the service ofÂ “thinking” before, during, and after an action. Nothing prevents the WSF process from serving this same function for political parties via otherworldism. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)
(*) Chico Whitaker is a member of the Brazilian Comission for Peace and Justice, which he represents on the Comission of the International Council of the World Social Forum (WSF).ï»¿