[WSMDiscuss] World Social Forum: Pre-call to movements

Patrick Bond pbond at mail.ngo.za
Fri May 8 12:15:23 CEST 2020

Hi all, comrades and friends,

With the problems apparently growing within the WSF, I had the 
impression that instead, we would be seeing revitalised commitments to 
internationalist networking and action - and also social movement 
coordination - via 'sectoral' ('thematic') fora. Is that a misimpression?

The danger of sector-segregated work is that it degenerates into 
NGO-style "inside the silo" politics in which linkages across the 
terrains of struggle are artificially truncated. Many of the 
international NGO funders encourage just this sort of narrowness, in 
part to prevent the Big Picture from emerging - and hence non-reformist 
reforms from arising.

However, over a few decades, we've witnessed an excellent set of 
internationalist networks in various specific sectors - land, water, 
climate justice, media and ICT, healthcare, feminism, indigenous rights, 
trade, debt and perhaps also more general economic justice via Occupiers 
or social-economy advocates - and these can always be rebuilt where 
appropriate. Moving across and beyond sectors via the WSF was one of its 

What I felt at a WSF event in 2018, here in Johannesburg in the form of 
the anti-extractivism thematic forum, was a potential return of that 
spirit (see below if you are interested in this case study). I gather 
there was a Barcelona economic-thematic forum scheduled for next month, 
but haven't heard the latest.

Is this a way forward, after the Covid-19 dust settles and the global 
progressive movement begins to regather our wits, and maybe even 
reconvene in various ways to reformulate our desires for 
internationalist solidarity? (I was on a call last weekend, of 
international ecosocialists, who believe the 2021 Glasgow climate 
mobilisation could be that sort of event.)



    Mining conflicts multiply, as critics of “extractivism” gather in

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Photo source: Zambian Eye

    Patrick Bond <https://www.pambazuka.org/taxonomy/term/3429>

Nov 10, 2018

The World Social Forum’s “Thematic Forum on Mining and Extractivism 
<https://www.thematicsocialforum.org/>” convenes from 12-15 November 
2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa, just after the Southern Africa 
People’s Tribunal on Transnational Corporations 
<http://aidc.org.za/3rd-session-peoples-permanent-tribunal/>. In 
between, at the notorious 2012 massacre site on the platinum belt to the 
west, there is a launch of a new book – /Business as Usual after 
critical not only of the mining house Lonmin but of its international 
financiers and buyers.

This is the moment for a profoundly critical standpoint to take root, 
unhindered by ineffectual reformism associated with Corporate Social 
<https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9781317906599/chapters/10.4324%2F9781315848341-18> gimmicks 
and the mining sector’s civilised-society watchdogging at the mainly 
<https://www.pambazuka.org/global-south/we-need-real-%E2%80%9Calternatives-mining%E2%80%9D-indaba> Alternative 
Mining Indaba. That non-governmental organisations-dominated event 
occurs annually in Cape Town every February, at the same time and place 
where the extractive mega-corporations gather.

The Thematic Forum firmly opposes 
<https://www.thematicsocialforum.org/> “extractivism.” Unlike the Indaba 
it aims to connect the dots between oppressions, defining its target as 
extraction of “so-called natural resources” in a way that is 
“devastating and degrading,” since mining exacerbates “conditions of 
global warming and climate injustice. It subjects local economies to a 
logic of accumulation that privately benefits corporations,” and 
represses “traditional, indigenous and peasant communities by violations 
of human rights, affecting in particular the lives of women and children.”

The last point is not incidental, as two of the main organisers are the 
Southern Africa Rural Women’s Assembly 
<https://www.facebook.com/SARuralWomen/?fref=mentions&__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARD2VrKCXK7yqD6rKMom_LW-6VGnCS9Imhl70G2O_nUmjBvNx6LR_TsMqsq8kkxd_sGdBOX-kXp0H6kcjoQMvp1ZhvT3CmkqXD_ohBwVANwOrcoEdqRRWRBJzU-ZU9Ycc2uKiNZykrD8yrsRV_i4qc7pcMUSw8e940KT8T054yK95L_jUsPTYi5ajei5E7KdGXaR9TKsoS7a-eCIRN0NpSs-Mwc&__tn__=K-R> and 
the WoMin <https://womin.org.za/> network: “African Women Unite Against 
Destructive Resource Extraction.” Inspired by Amadiba Crisis Committee 
activists in the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast, they have campaigned hard 
for the #Right2SayNo 

Last month, such rights language proved invaluable in the Constitutional 
Court in Johannesburg, when the Itireleng community won 
<https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-11-01-maledu-judgment-victory-for-the-constitution-over-mining-evictions/> a 
judgement <http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZACC/2018/41.html> against 
displacement from their farm, under attack by a local platinum mining 
house. (This was pleasantly surprising to many of us who are Court 
critics, given how much corporate power 
<https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Corporate+rights+in+South+Africa.-a019528162> is 
hardwired into South Africa’s founding document.)

On the Wild Coast last month, South Africa’s Mining Minister Gwede 
<https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-09-27-from-xolobeni-to-the-mining-charter-community-members-marginalised/> had 
shown how desperately he wants investment by the likes of aggressive 
Australian titanium mining firm MRC 
But the Amadiba Crisis Committee 
<https://www.facebook.com/amadibacrisiscommittee/> and its allies have 
consistently shown their ability to say “No!”

*No means no*

The Forum’s opening morning features a demonstration at the nearby world 
headquarters of AngloGold Ashanti, the locally listed firm shamed in 
2005 by Human Rights Watch 
<https://www.hrw.org/report/2005/06/01/curse-gold> for its alliances 
with warlords during the minerals-related murder of millions of people 
in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2011, AngloGold 
Ashanti won the title “world’s most irresponsible corporation” at the 
“Davos Public Eye” ceremony 
<https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=202199> organised 
outside the World Economic Forum by Greenpeace and the Berne Declaration.

Since then the firm has attracted even more intense community, labour, 
feminist and environmental protests from Chile 
<http://ejatlas.org/conflict/mina-cerro-vanguardia> to Colombia 
<https://earthfirstjournal.org/newswire/2018/03/27/how-a-tiny-colombian-village-beat-the-worlds-third-largest-gold-mining-company/> to 
<http://amsterdamnews.com/news/2017/mar/30/profiteering-mars-record-black-african-gold-mining/> to 
<http://www.miningweekly.com/article/anglogold-ashantis-guinea-mine-hit-by-violent-power-cuts-protests-2018-06-28> to 
Tanzania <https://www.mdpi.com/2079-9276/1/1/3/htm>, as well as in South 
<https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2017-06-29-miners-rise-up-and-march-as-anglo-gold-ashanti-fires-salvo-to-cut-8500-jobs/> over 
mass retrenchments, inadequate pay and delay of silicosis-related 
compensation payments. It is a sick company, with its Johannesburg Stock 
Exchange (JSE) price having fallen by more than half since a mid-2016 
peak (and even further from its 2006-12 JSE valuations).

<https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/companies/mining/2018-07-23-anglogold-ashanti-appoints-barricks-kelvin-dushnisky-as-ceo/> by 
investors who believe “AngloGold has not matched up to its global peers” 
in large part because of less profitable South African holdings, 
AngloGold Ashanti is rapidly exiting its home country. The firm 
<https://books.google.co.za/books/about/Anglo_American_and_the_rise_of_modern_So.html?id=cYhkAAAAIAAJ&redir_esc=y> made 
its fortune during the notorious 20th century era of extreme apartheid 
extractivism when it was run by the Oppenheimer family. Perhaps even 
worse is the new boss, Kelvin Dushnisky 
who has presided over Toronto-based Barrick (the world’s largest gold 
producer, known in Africa as Acacia) during its recent reign of mining 
terrorism <http://protestbarrick.net/>, including mass rape 

The mining corporations under fire at the Forum are not only the typical 
pinstriped, ethics-challenged cowboys from the 
London-Toronto-Melbourne-Johannesburg circuits. Next door in Mozambique, 
Rio-based Vale’s coal-mining operations at Moatize were disrupted last 
month, according 
<https://clubofmozambique.com/news/vale-mozambique-suspends-activities-in-moatize-after-protests-watch/> to 
activist allies at the /Associação de Apoio e Assistência Jurídica às 
Comunidades/, due to “excessive pollution [and] acceleration of the 
decay of houses due to explosion of dynamites.”

Albeit trying to “mask brutal exploitation with the language of 
South-South solidarity,” as documented 
<https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/11/vale-corporation-brazil-mining-lula-mozambique-brics> by 
Canadian researcher Judith Marshall, Vale is brutal in numerous 
jurisdictions, judged by the Berne Declaration and the Brazilian 
Movement of Landless Workers as the worst company in the world 
<https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2012/01/30/worst-company-in-the-world-award-goes-to/#76f601d76a0a> in 
2012 due to “its labour relations, community impact and environmental 

In Mozambique, Vale as well as the Indian firms Coal of India, Vedanta 
and Jindal have been criticised for displacement and destruction. 
Community protests 
<https://clubofmozambique.com/news/mzoambique-coal-and-resettlement-by-joseph-hanlon/> against 
foreign companies are prolific in coal-rich Tete Province. Further east, 
on the Mozambican coastline, beach sands in some communities have been 
destroyed by the voracious Chinese firm Haiyu. “They owe us because they 
have taken our beautiful sand from us and left nothing. We don’t know 
the quantity of the sand that they took over seven years, but we know 
that they profited from it and we want our dues. They have taken all the 
riches here and left us with nothing,” complains 
<https://mg.co.za/article/2018-10-16-they-have-taken-our-beautiful-sand-from-us-and-left-nothing> Nassire 
Omar, a local resident who can no longer carry out fishing subsistence.

But it may be that Vedanta <http://www.foilvedanta.org/> and its boss 
Anil Agarwal – who is also Anglo American Corporation’s largest single 
investor with more than 20 percent of shares – has witnessed the most 
sustained protest, including a mass protest in May 2018 against 
the Thoothukudi Sterlite copper plant, which his officials responded to 
with a massacre of 13 Indians demanding an end to pollution.

Protest against Africa’s largest copper mine, Konkola, centres on 1,826 
Zambian farmers 
<http://www.nortonrosefulbright.com/knowledge/publications/158040/emlungowe-v-vedantaem-appeal-highlights-important-points-regarding-parent-company-liability> poisoned 
by Vedanta. Just before the London Stock Exchange delisting of Vedanta 
last month, popular reggae musician Maiko Zulu protested 
<https://www.lusakatimes.com/2018/09/28/maiko-zulu-released-after-kcm-protest/> (and 
was arrested) at the British High Commission in Lusaka, demanding that 
authorities deny Agarwal his escape from London prior to justice being 
served. Agarwal bought <http://www.foilvedanta.org/?s=Konkola> that mine 
for US $25 million in 2004 and a decade later bragged 
<https://www.lusakaftimes.com/2014/05/13/video-vedanta-boss-saying-kcm-makes-500-million-profit-per-year/> that 
ever since he had taken US $500 million to $US 1 billion home from 
Konkola annually.

*After extractivism*

These sorts of Western plus BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and 
South Africa] modes of super-exploitation exemplify the mineral, oil and 
gas looting 
<https://www.pambazuka.org/economics/new-evidence-africa%E2%80%99s-systematic-looting-provided-increasingly-schizophrenic-world-bank> underway 
across Africa. The uncompensated extraction of non-renewable resources 
amounts to an estimated US $150 billion annually, far more even than the 
US $50-80 billion Illicit Financial Flows and US $50 billion in legal 
profit repatriation from Africa by mining and petroleum firms.

But increasingly, mining houses are pushing the people and environment 
too far, and resistance is rising. As Anglo American Corporation leader 
Mark Cutifani remarked 
<https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-17/miners-offer-clinics-bull-rings-as-protests-tie-up-25-billion> in 
2015, “There is something like US $25 billion worth of projects tied up 
or stopped” by mining critics across the world.

How activists can increase that figure is the topic of next week’s 
discussions, along with moving from these critiques to strategies for 
post-extractivist systems of political economy, political ecology and 
social reproduction.

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