[WSMDiscuss] where's the global social movement? (Moscow interview)

Tord Björk tord.bjork at gmail.com
Fri Jun 12 12:06:01 CEST 2020

Thanks for the very illustrative response showing the richness of the South
African struggles. Here is my response to the questions you raised in your
interview regarding the need of an ideology to build a way forward.

Comments as always most welcome

Scetching a multi-ideological theory for the coming civilizational change

Patrick Bond asks for thoughts concerning how to address the
multidimensional crisis we are in. Here is my answer.

A summary, the longer version may not materialize but the beginning exists.
Central for this contribution is the analysis of the Covid19 crisis
statements from the main international movements:

We need to answer the questions: What? Who? How? Where and When? and
finally Why?


We have a social and ecological global crisis embedded in a two-layered
rural (organic) and industrial (inorganic) economy including threats
against the very survival of mankind. The globalization of social relations
at the workplace or outside, formal or informal, causes stress, power
relations shifting towards militarism and owners of capital, destruction of
self reliance in daily life and consumerism. The globalization of
extraction of inorganic resources causes abundance of material goods
unequally distributed in excess to some and to little to others, garbage
filling land and the oceans and one part of the climate change. The
globalization of biology is a catastrophe about to happen causing death to
the kind of biological diversity humankind is dependent upon. The
technological development causes the manipulation of nature as with the
atomic bomb or genetic engineering threatening the survival of mankind and
foundations of life.

The solution is a deglobalized reindustrialization and food sovereignty
with agroecology as its main base supported by a fair trade system. This
can take different forms whether democratically controlled capitalism and a
public sector, expansions of the commons, democratically controlled planned
economy including markets for family farmers, indigenous consensus
societies built on buen vivir, or other systems. There is also the need of
a ban on certain products and technology as those causing the destruction
of the ozone layer or the atomic bomb.


The direct producers in organic and inorganic production (rural and
industrial), and services including reproduction can build alliances across
divisions created by those in power. That is to say the family farmer/small
peasant, workers in industry and service sectors and unpaid workers in
reproduction/caring, mainly women. It is only the direct producers that
have sufficient strength at the workplace or where they live to create
lasting change. The middle class can have a role by connecting struggles
through their democratic organizations while they at the same time are used
by those in power to cause divisions, especially by separating the struggle
into a multitude of temporary projects and inability to address main
conflicts. With this weakness in mind it is also so that when it comes to
the civilisational threats against humanity it is the middle class that has
taken the initiative and created the class alliances that are able to
address the issue.

As the present development model is approaching levels or above destroying
the very foundations of human livelihood the importance of direct producers
using photosynthesis in agriculture, forestry and fisheries is growing.
This in spite of that their numbers are decreasing and their share of the
formal economy as well. This is acknowledged by the part of the middle
class that oppose the destruction of the planet. The importance of the
industrial worker and wage earners in services is still crucially important
when it comes to defending social rights. But it lacks vitality when it
comes to addressing the problems of industrial society. The focus is
centered around technical issues and redistribution of wealth, not the
biological part of the production of wealth. Thus other actors has to take
the lead which has already been seen in the case of family farmers/small
peasant and landless, indigenous people, precariat, students and when the
middle class in the peace, envrionmental, antiracist, feminist and
solidarity movements join hands across the movement divisions and with the
direct producers.


Central to a strategy solving the crisis is to go beyond the contradiction
between state and market so central for industrial society. Pope Francis
acknowledged this in his 2020 Easter address to people's movements. His
message has probably the clearest view on how to act among the many
contributions addressing the Covid-19 pandemia. He says technocratic
paradigms (whether state-centred or market-driven) are not enough to
address this crisis. Now more than ever, persons, communities and peoples
must be put at the centre, united to heal, to care and to share. Here it is
not primarily the state or corporations and the market who are the
institutions to act within. As he says in the last paragraph, ”Stand firm
in your struggle and care for each other as brothers and sisters.”

Thus the civilizational crisis for industrial society calls for acting
beyond its two seemingly contradictory forms of institutions, the state and
the market. This fits well with the idea of pre-figurative forms of
organizing, ways to here and now live according to the vision of a society
we want to see in the future. The difference is that the civilizational
critical movement includes resistance here and now, not only in market and
state relations but also and maybe primarily in different forms of commons.
The struggle for other forms of organizing society is not only
prefigurative, it is also here and now a defense of already existing
commons or revival of those that existed before globalization and different
forms of external or inner colonization and neocolonialism destroyed them.

An essential form of commons are people's movements. They oscillate between
rebellion, even occasionally coming to power and international democratic
networks based at local levels, Such people's movements are capable of
addressing the concerns of daily life as well as challenging global state
and market institutions. As they are open to all sharing their goal the
have a democratic function for the society as a whole and the world.

If the left can abandon its seemingly everlasting internal conflict between
reform and revolution, horizontal or vertical is too early to say. Since
the social democrats murdered Rosa Luxemburg we have been living in an
unnecessary coeval time caught in this inner left wing controversy. The
schizophrenic solution to both maintain the World Social Forum as an open
space while organizing an assembly of social movements built on
representative democracy within this space is a way concerning how to move
forward. A representative form rather than consensus among those who afford
to participate is an option now more needed then ever and also within
reach. The civilizational critical and environmental movement with its
wider organizational horizons and experience than the left can here provide

When and Where?

Why not now and everywhere? To defeat globalization it is necessary to both
think globally and locally while acting locally and globally. The response
to the corona crisis from all main international democratic movements
except the trade unions gives us this opportunity.

They address the issues of other movements. Facilitated by Trade Unions for
Energy Democracy (TUED) a global trade union assembly has also been
established welcoming cooperation with other movements meeting in the
period from June 9th to September 10th.. This initiative contributes much
to what was missing in the response to the corona crisis from the
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

A strong unity among these movements is the link between Via Campesina, the
Demand Climate Justice campaign and Friends of the Earth. This link
articulates a more class conscious and broader view than movements more
centered on social issues as the trade unions, peace, anti imperialist and
women's movements. But the positions are not contradictory, on the contrary
the environmental and peasant/farmers movement fully acknowledge the
socials rights issues and many social movements acknowledge the importance
of the peasant and agricultural struggle.

Thus not only the objective conditions but also the subjective conditions
are present for the kind of mobilization from the local to the global level
that is necessary. The coming months gives possibilities for the kind of
class alliance we need and Via Campesina explicitly calls for between rural
and urban direct producers. An alliance that can be supported by middle
class environmental movements. This alliance is explicitly going beyond a
state centric perspective by focusing also upon transnational corporations
as well as defending the commons and promoting alternatives to the present
development model. This makes it an interesting partner for movements
focusing on social issues.

As the class interests of the middle class now also is under attack by
different forms of introducing digital surveillance of office and service
workers in both the private and in the public sector (as new public
management) the time has come for the middle class environmental movement
to reintroduce the issue of working conditions which once was central to
the movement. An issue that will make the environmental movement more
relevant for daily life issues and an alliance with trade unions as well as
for small enterprises under perfect competition in agriculture, forestry
and other sectors.

The representational form of democracy in the formal international people's
movements can be combined with the open space formula in the preparations
for next World Social Forum in 2021 in Mexico parallel to the Davos summit.
The negotiations so far has been dominated by organizations and voices
mainly addressing social concerns and from a left wing perspective. But
there is also an openness for civilizational critical viewpoints and
environmental concerns beyond anticapitalism.

The same can be said about the building of an action-oriented anti
capitalist and anti imperialist intercontinental network of movements like
MST in Brazil as well as political parties. This International People's
assembly also has an openness for the kind of class alliances called for by
Via Campesina and the environmental issues, maybe even civilizational
critical points of views.

>From a civilizational critical point of view now is the time to address all
the levels of problems with the present development model from the daily
life conditions to the global risk of the destruction of mankind due to
nuclear war, art extinction or climate change.


What is needed is not one all encompassing ideology. Rather it is a need of
acknowledging several different ideologies of at times equal importance as
feminism, indigenous buen vivir and mother earth world views,
eco-philosophy and civilizational critical notions, marxism, keynesianism,
ecological humanism or how we can name them.

What is essential is to address each other. We need express criticism and
be willing to make self criticism. It is especially time to stand up for
civilisational critical understanding including the need to address
existential issues as the future of mankind is at stake.

The civilisational critical world views have their main strengths among
indigenous people. But they need movements in mainstream society to not be
marginalized and to be protected from the extinction now carried out on a
larger scale than ever before against the indigenous peoples of the world.

This movement in the larger society has not only its roots in indigenous
world views but also popular culture that many times has been marginalized
through inner colonization. A strong part of the civilizational critical
strand has been defending local cultures from the onslaught of
globalization while also working for prefigurative alternatives. It is now
the time to say no to the ideology making this kind of avenue the central
to the struggle, an ideology embedded in the meme think globally, act
locally. It is necessary to simultaneously take part in the global struggle
and thus think globally and locally together with act locally and globally.

There is also a civilizational critical strand in the environmental and
peace movement so far mostly unable to challenge the middle class interests
in limiting these movements to single issues not challenging the present
development model. Thus the environmental movement tends to large scale
forms of social intervention or growth as if form or growth is not socially
constructed. The peace movement tend to claim they are the frontline
against the military industrial complex as if there is such a military
industrial complex separate from the civil industrial complex. The big
capitalist corporations are producing both for the military and civil
market and so was the economy also organized in the planned economy of the
Soviet Union.

The unnecessary separation of issues become evident when the environmental
and peace movements address the corona Crisis. Both address strongly the
social rights issues but the environmental movement does not address peace
issues and the peace movement does not address environmental issues. From a
civilisational critical point of view this must be opposed. A development
model built on ever expanding plundering of natural resources and
penetration of markets is a key reason for war. To separate the two was the
mistake of a middle class afraid of addressing the root causes of
environmental destruction and war in a way that made it understandable to
people in common in their daily life. The ideas once more present in these
movements to address also working conditions resulting from this
development model and the effects militarization also have on daily life
must be invigorated. Doing this makes it far easier to build alliances with
other rural and urban struggles that connect to what people see as
important in their life.

It is also necessary to stand up against the unholy alliance between the
left and liberals in the climate movement. With the simplistic notions that
the climate crisis is so imminent that large scale actions have to take
place now many in the left have sold themselves to the UN process of win
win solutions between corporations, states and civil society. There is not
time for waiting for the overthrow of the capitalist system as the left
wingers tend to believe it is the only way to really change society. Thus
the left wing has in many cases in practice excluding the civilisational
critical strand from their interventions in the climate issues together
with movements like Via Campesina and Friends of the Earth opposing carbon
trading. This while maintaining a false face of being ideologically
innocent by using the occasion for general anti-capitalist propaganda, they
often talk left and walk right.

This has recently changed as also 350.org joined the demands against carbon
trading in December 2019 and is even more explicit in the Demand Climate
Justice statement on Covid-19. But it has not reached the mainstream
climate organizations started by leftists in Sweden yet and maybe not in
many other places either.

In general the left has little knowledge of the civilizational critical
strand and its struggle against the Brundtland sustainable development
ideology and the stakeholder capitalism embedded in the UN conferences. As
newcomers in the climate movement they behave as if there is no history nor
any problems with their unholy alliances with liberals or the constant
inner contradictions of the left based in industrial society relationships.

This is why the left tends to avoid addressing the issue of the class of
family farmers and small peasants submerging them into an anonymous part of
”workers”. The class struggle alliance Via Campesina asks for between rural
and urban classes never really enters into their consciousness as it does
in the environmental movement. The presence of the family farmer struggle
passes by more in anecdotal form as a mentioning en passant about the
landless movement MST in Brazil or as victims as in the case of the
interview with Bond, was of the foremost left wing ecoscialists. While the
civilizational critical strand established the people's climate movement as
equally addressing emissions and deforestation the left never took the
deforestation part seriously and focused on the industrial part. Thus they
saw trade unions as essential above all and could also pay attention to so
called frontline communities of different sorts in the struggle but not
family fraers/small peasants as an equally important factor as other
classes to cmba climate change.

The left also separated the climate issue from other environmental issues
as well as peace issues. The left wing opportunism turning to what seems to
be the hot issue at the moment excluding other issues is creating more
division then necessary.

It is now necessary that the civilizational critical movement stands up
using the Via Campesina, Demand Climate Justice and Friends of the Earth
Covid19 statements to challenge the lack of criticism and even appraisal of
the UN sustainable development model as in the Paris agreement supported by
the Fridays for Future. There is no need for factionalism in the
environmental movement of a kind that was a landmark in industrial society.
But there is a need for more schizophrenic tactics including embracing the
need for exchange of ideas between different ideologies while developing a
more coherent resistance, constructive alternative program and celebration
of the joint struggle. Or as we say in the envrionmental and peace movement
in Sweden inspired by a book by the feminist Elin Wägner in 1940, peace on
earth and peace with earth.
Tord Björk

email: tord.bjork at gmail.com, skype: tordbjork, tel: +46 (0)722 15 16 90
address: Götgatan 7 A, 29133 Kristianstad, Sweden

On Wed, Jun 10, 2020 at 5:57 PM Patrick Bond <pbond at mail.ngo.za> wrote:

> On 6/10/2020 9:51 AM, Tord Björk via WSM-Discuss wrote:
> Most welcome, The strength in the coming international ass mobilization
> for alternatiuves might come from somewhere else then most people think.
> Before commenting questions regarding the abbreviations:
> IP I suppose is international patent but what is 4IR?
> Ah, my mistake; sorry, those are common acronyms used here in South
> Africa, by 21st-22nd century activists (personally, I'm generally stuck in
> the 20th). Those two refer to the
>    - "IP" intellectual property tyrannies that prevented people living
>    with HIV from getting life-saving medicines until the delinking process
>    began, and subsequently after 2005, the life expectancy here rose from 52
>    to 65 now; and
>    - "4IR" Fourth Industrial Revolution blahblah from the World Economic
>    Forum, for which we are seeing some healthy signs of a non-Luddite 4ICR
>    (are there similar resistances in your neighbourhoods?):
> On the latter point, here's what I mean (excerpted from a new SA
> socio-economic book free to download here
> <http://www.pulp.up.ac.za/component/edocman/exploring-the-link-between-poverty-and-human-rights-in-africa/download?Itemid=>
> ):
> ...
>             Another major factor must be mentioned in any consideration
> of worsening South African inequality: the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’
> (4IR). The phrase encapsulates a new round of technological disruptions
> (including job displacement) caused by robotics, artificial intelligence,
> big data surveillance and marketing algorithms (such as socio-political
> manipulation), blockchain (allowing crypto-currencies to undermine national
> monetary sovereignty), nanotech and biotech, and so forth. The 4IR’s
> popularisation in South Africa began in 2017 when the Swiss-based World
> Economic Forum held an Africa-wide conference in Durban, following the
> network’s introduction of 4IR technological ‘leap-frogging’ advocacy in
> Kigali in 2015.
>             In South Africa the concept has been appropriated by quite
> destructive forces, so social resistance is not far behind. The 2018
> Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) summit in Sandton was an
> opportunity for BRICS Business Council Chairperson Iqbal Survé and his *Independent
> *media group to assiduously promote the 4IR. A few weeks before the
> summit he had hoped to launch his own Sagarmatha ‘unicorn’: the term for a
> $1+ billion initial public offering fund-raised by a tech firm on a stock
> market, in this case based on his controversial Ayo tech base which enjoyed
> major state pension fund subsidisation (Sagarmatha is a Nepalese word for
> Mt Everest). However, Survé had vastly over-reached, with subsequent
> critiques of his ethics and accounting gimmicks destroying the venture as
> the Johannesburg Stock Exchange prohibited its listing, and he was fired
> from the BRICS body within months. (Under the influence of Survé and the
> BRICS South African *sherpa* Anil Sooklal, the body even adopted what
> ultimately was a hollow 2018 theme: ‘BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for
> Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th *Industrial Revolution’*
> .)
>             The demise of the main South African propagandist for the 4IR
> was not the concept’s only problem. Given how much renewed unemployment,
> poverty and inequality were likely to emerge from fresh bursts of
> capital-intensity, and given how serious South African activists were about *socialising
> advances in technology for broader gains, not corporate profits, *it is
> useful to consider several ‘Fourth Industrial *Counter*-Revolutions’ that
> were either successful or that are now underway.
> *Table 1: The Fourth Industrial Revolution in South Africa, and
> counter-revolutionaries*
> *4IR: Fourth Industrial Revolution trends*
> *SA manifestations of degenerate 4IR*
> *4ICR: Fourth Industrial Counter-Revolutionaries*
> *rampant application of Intellectual Property and monopoly patents,
> thereby excluding poor people from life-saving innovations, especially in
> public health services*
> Big Pharma corporations supplied Anti-RetroViral (ARV) medications for
> AIDS, but at a cost of R100 000 annually (before 2004), aided and abetted
> by South African leaders Thabo Mbeki, Alec Erwin and Manto
> Tshabalala-Msimang, by Al Gore and Bill Gates from the U.S, by Western
> states and by the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Related Intellectual
> Property System (WTO TRIPS).
> *Treatment Action Campaign,* their *labour allies and lawyers,* the *Constitutional
> Court*, courageous *journalists*, some senior *African National Congress
> (ANC) officials*, *and generic medicines firms *together rejected IP
> barriers to ARV access and won WTO TRIPS exemptions in 2001, compelling
> roll out of free drugs to 5 million, thus raising life expectancy from 52
> to 65 since 2005 (1998-2005).
> *elitist education, driving more working-class people into debt or out of
> tertiary education*
> Black, working-class students suffered greater rates of ‘financial
> exclusion’ at universities, as well as post-school debt defaults.
> *#FeesMustFall* won tuition waivers for 90% of university and technikon
> students (2015-17).
> *social media mind-manipulation*
> Bell Pottinger, the broadcaster ANN7 and the Gupta brothers’ bot army
> declared war on those politicos, journalists and civil society who were
> allegedly associated with ‘White Monopoly Capital’ (albeit making such
> claims without a genuine left agenda, purely as a juvenile Zumite defence
> mechanism).
> SA’s opposition parties (especially the *DA* and *EFF*), journalists
> (especially *amaBhungane *and *Sunday Times*) and nearly all other
> activists in left-wing, centrist and right-wing civil society, as well as
> Johann Rupert and allied Western Multinational Corporations, together gave
> Bell Pottinger and ANN7 corporate death sentences, and sent the Guptas into
> Dubai exile (2016-17).
> *gradual repression of liberal rights and of social justice activism*
> The Department of State Security engaged in worsening repression during
> the Mbeki-Zuma regimes, including the (ill-fated) Protection of State
> Information Bill.
> *#Right2Know* battled against the ‘Secrecy Bill’ and, alongside
> conscientious ANC MPs, prevented it from becoming formal law in 2013
> (2011-19).
> *surveillance of citizens’ movements by states and capital*
> SA National Road Agencies Ltd (Sanral) and Kapsch established ‘e-toll
> gantries’ across Gauteng’s highways to enforce payment for road use, *even
> though apartheid and post-apartheid housing markets force working people to
> live far from city centres.*
> *Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa),* and *Congress of SA Trade Unions
> (Cosatu)* successfully protested in the streets and courts to protect the
> vast majority of Gauteng road users who boycotted gantries and e-toll bill
> payment (2010-19).
> *ultra-commodification of everything, using advanced financial technology*
> The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and CPS Net1’s strategy
> of ‘financial inclusion’ included raiding millions of poor people’s monthly
> social grants – so as to debit for microfinance, cellphone and other
> undesired ‘services’
> *Society*, disgusted by revelations of abuse collected by *Black Sash*
> and its lawyers, acted on behalf of 17 million monthly victims, compelling
> the state to make the SA Post Office distributor of grants (resulting in
> massive losses for CPS Net1) (2013-18).
> *danger of excessively job-killing robotics*
> Major banks – catalysed by Nedbank – launched automation to replace
> thousands of workers with hundreds of robots
> *SA Society of Banking Officials* (Sasbo) protested the jobs massacre,
> but so far unsuccessfully (2018-19).
> *danger of excessive technological control through robotics and Artificial
> Intelligence (AI)*
> The leading South African expert, Elon Musk, warns, ‘AI is a fundamental
> risk to the existence of human civilization… the danger of AI is much
> greater than the danger of nuclear warheads.’
> *Musk’s* consciousness-raising includes a film (*Do You Trust This
> Computer*?), regular public statements as well as a twar with Mark
> Zuckerberg, calling for greater protective regulation against AI abuses
> (2017-19).
> *danger of geo-engineering and nanotechnology especially applied to the
> climate crisis*
> South Africa has been a pilot site for extreme levels of GMO agriculture
> and zany climate strategies (such as Carbon Capture and Storage, and
> dropping iron filings into the ocean to create algae blooms)
> *Biowatch *monitors genetic engineering, while *Earthlife Africa,
> groundWork *and progressive environmentalists oppose ‘false solutions’ to
> climate chaos, while demanding mass replacement of coal and nuclear power
> with renewables
> *danger of blockchain and crypto-currency distortion of state monetary
> sovereignty*
> One poll (by Hootsuite, in February 2019) found 10.7% of SA internet users
> invest in Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies, the highest rate in the
> world (the global average is 5.5%); the three crypto exchanges are Luno,
> Altcoin Trader and OVEX
> *Cosatu *and the *National Union of Metalworkers of SA *(Numsa) regularly
> advocate much stronger exchange controls, especially against the Illicit
> Financial Flows that are amplified by crypto-currencies
> *pro-4IR corporate control of mass media*
> *Independent *newspapers engaged in relentless 4IR propaganda (without
> any hint of its adverse effects), especially as Iqbal Survé pushed his
> failing ‘Sagarmatha unicorn’ and Ayo tech businesses, while serving as 2018
> head of the BRICS Business Council until the Council was fired in October
> 2018
> *#Right2Know *organisation and academics (e.g. *Jane Duncan *and *Mike
> Kwet*) remain vigilant about corporate media power (2012-19), and various *competing
> media organisations* blew the whistle on the Public Investment
> Commission’s subsidisation of Ayo and the *Independent *group.
> ________________________________________
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