world social forum, Mumbai: Anti-imperialism grows worldwide

Growing resistance against US imperialism worldwide was reflected in almost every meeting, demonstration, placard and badge at the World Social Forum in Mumbai.

The anti-capitalist movement has merged with the anti-war movement, critical both of neo-liberal economic exploitation and of ‘pre-emptive’ military action by imperialism. The feeling of sympathy which existed immediately after September 11, 2001, has since been transformed into a virtual flood of anti-US imperialist feeling.

Joseph Stiglitz

What alternative to pursue, however, was extremely unclear from the main speakers at the WSF. For example, Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize Winner in economics, former adviser to US president Bill Clinton and chief economist for the World Bank, was given a prominent role. He was the main speaker at the rally entitled: “Globalisation, economic and social security”. There, he put his usual position, heavily criticising the IMF, with some good points. He does not, however, oppose either capitalist globalisation or privatisation.

He actually praised governments in East Asia for successes in implementing capitalist globalisation. By ‘success’ he meant economic growth and by no means the conditions of workers. He is, for one thing, an admirer of the rapid economic development in China, where millions of workers are exploited by the multinationals. According to the South China Morning Post, every year 100,000 workers in China die because of their job. There is no such thing as ‘capitalist globalisation with a human face’.

Walden Bello

Another trend at the WSF was to put forward regional capitalist blocks as an alternative to US imperialism. This was reflected by Walden Bello, a well-known human rights activist from the Philippines, in his speech on “Globalisation and its alternatives”. His six-point plan for ‘building sustainable economies’ calls for the Washington-ruled institutions like the IMF and the World Bank to be replaced. Instead, regional institutions like the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and the European Union should be strengthened. This totally ignores the role of the SAARC, the EU and similar regional institutions.

The recent SAARC summit in Islamabad, Pakistan (which was dominated by the peace talks between India and Pakistan), agreed on a neo-liberal agenda of free trade between the seven countries as well as towards the imperialist economies. The EU is a leading force for privatisation and attacks on workers’ conditions in Europe.

“Workers must oppose all ideas of opposition to US imperialism in alliance with more ‘progressive’ governments in the neo-colonial world”, commented comrade Wishwa from New Socialist Alternative (CWI India), in a discussion on the role of US imperialism, held by CWI members. Bello himself accepts that “global capitalisation will not allow the process of reform”, but from that he draws the conclusion that the capitalisation should be regional!

Socialist ideas needed

These are just two examples of the glaring contradiction between the fighting mood shown by many workers and young people at the WSF and the more or less ‘old liberal’ ideas put forward by many of the leaders. Unfortunately, many left wing organisations also go along with this, avoiding any sharp debates and also avoiding voicing socialist slogans.

The members of the CWI intervening at the World Social Forum – from Asia, Australia, and Europe – made a big effort to provide an alternative in the form of a clear class analysis and a socialist programme. Many of the angriest young people and workers attending were attracted to our banners, our stall and our ideas and now want to participate in the work of the CWI itself.

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January 2004