This World Is Impossible

Posted on 08 February 2011 by editor

Mario Lubetkin, IPS Director General. Credit: Abdullah Vawda/IPS TerraVIva

By Mario Lubetkin (*)

The World Social Forum now underway in Dakar was preceded by a series of meetings throughout the year that confirmed the uniqueness of the WSF as a place to discuss the major problems of the world and proposals to address them. IPS has covered this entire process. (

It is highly significant that the WSF has centred its discussions in Africa for the second year -and in a Francophone African country for the first time.

These forums are the result of an enormous economic and organisational effort that would not be possible without fervent activism and the WSF’s massive following. This forum in particular will give Senegalese civil society a major boost, which will reverberate throughout the rest of Africa and beyond.

Since 2001, the WSF has generated giant expectations with its debates, ideas, and proposals, all oriented towards its ultimate goal and motto: “Another World is Possible.”

The last decade has been one of the most turbulent and full of change in the history of the world. When it began, the world was still in the grips of neo-liberal ideology, the Washington Consensus was considered a near-religious commandment, the massively-expanding world of finance was suffocating the real economy, all culminating in the assertion that a response to the catastrophic acceleration of climate change should be entrusted to market forces and free enterprise. The hegemony of Washington was so crushing that it was able to make the world accept its warped allegation that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction -even after this had been proven untrue- and on that basis invade the country with a handful of allies, marginalising the UN in the process.

Throughout this period the forums provided more than a source of denunciations, resistance, and mobilisation. They generated a clear and cogent argument that extreme liberalisation, blind faith in the market as the guardian of the economy, and the rejection of all regulation, especially of the financial groups up to their necks in speculation, would speed the world towards planetary disaster.

This is precisely what happened, though many people outside the initial forums rejected these warnings, which they dismissed as naive or mere vapours of ideological extremism.

This decade has provided a vigorous confirmation of both the critique and the premise that inspired the World Social Forum: that “This World is Impossible.” This is why another world is possible – and necessary.

However, while the former is indisputable, in terms of the latter, conditions are more favourable than even before, though certainly the path is not clear to bring about the changes and reforms needed to make the world better, more just, more safe, and more sustainable.

In other words, if civil society doesn’t provide firm resistance and demand real and profound changes, this giant crisis might result in nothing more than a restoration conveniently devised to maintain the basic elements of the current system for the long term.

It is instructive to study what happened after the Great Depression that followed the Wall Street crash of 1929. To overcome this crisis, president Roosevelt in his New Deal introduced numerous changes, like the law that separates commercial banks from investment banks, and limits on financial exposure, among others.

With these changes, the system survived for more than fifty years until, in the 1980s, a process of reversal began which culminated during the second term of president George W. Bush in the global depression, which is its predictable and tragic consequence.

The dilemma facing the Dakar Forum and certain to face those that follow is this: how can we make sure that the epic financial dysfunction that was diagnosed and predicted to implode will lead not to a return to business as usual but rather to the introduction of the changes that it requires?

From our point of view, this message should reach all civil society in order to spur it to mobilise and become a real engine of pressure. The main obstacle is the fact that the media have thus far have not been receptive to the forum. Thus the battle over information should now be given top priority.

This battle should be fought not only in the conventional media. By fortunate coincidence, the Dakar forum is taking place immediately after the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Both countries were ruled by dictatorships, the press was mostly controlled by the government with few independent media, while opposition parties lacked influence and importance, as is usually the case in authoritarian systems. Apparently everything was under control. But the opposition, sometimes virulent, was alive and it was a majority. Lacking political freedom and media that reflect their views, civil society was waiting for its chance and adopted its own means of communication, the Internet as well as more direct channels.

This is exactly the way the WSF came about, as a social network unconnected to political parties or economic or religious interests.

For this reason, the winds blowing from North Africa carry a lesson and stimulus for the Dakar meetings. Above all they confirm the strategies of the forums, which were born of and work in the heart of civil society in order to promote and introduce bottom-up change, the only kind that really changes the world.

We hope that TerraViva can contribute to this process.



2 Comments For This Post

  1. Simon Kokoyo Says:

    Another world is possible as long as we appreciate small actions being implemented at the grass root level. There is a small project which makes sandals, Ecosandals from the used tyres in one of the most forgotten slums in the world, Korogocho. This is a simple initiative that employs locals but affords the world to share it skills.
    While still at the the community level, initiatives such as MAP KIBERA and now MAP MATHARE should be expanded to help marginalized communities map their own communities and identify gaps in terms of resources.

    Another world will only be possible when we acknowledge the ever increasing gap between the poor and the rich and work hard to bridge the difference. It is the people who drive the changes be it through civil society of social movements. We have witnessed people power in Philippines and now in Tunisia and Egypt. It is like a river breaking its banks naturally. Nobody cannot stop a process whose time has come.

  2. trutbargy Says:

    After avoiding the wave of protests sweeping the Middle East for months, Oman has entered its third day of continuous economic demonstrations. Local media is reporting that demonstrators have set fire to a supermarket, cars, a police station, houses, and the governor’s residence amid protests – calling for economic hswhfjweidjwejdjan21123h12 calling for economic improvements and government reform .

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