[WSF-Discuss] [Fwd: [Wsfic-methodology] EN/ES/PT Strategy Commission Crisis Paper; Paper sobre la crise, por la Comision de Estrategia / Texto sobre a crise, pela Comissão de Estratégia]

Jai Sen jai.sen at cacim.net
Wed Apr 29 07:23:25 CDT 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Traducción en español y francés a seguir / Traduction en espagnol et  
en français à suivre

Here are some comments on this important document that was posted on  
this list a few days ago, ‘Facing The Crisis’.

Since this draft paper has been posted for debate at the upcoming WSF  
International Council meeting in Morocco, from May 6-9 2009 – about  
one week away, now -, on what the WSF’s perspective and strategy  
should be within the current world situation, and this is certainly  
an important question, now is the time that we should be debating this.

Although a relatively small paper (six pages), it has a major  
ambition, and has been put forward before the Council of what I  
believe is an important world body and process; and so I believe we  
must take it at face value and speak to it and what lies behind it,  
and raise any concerns we have about it.  I attempt to do this in the  
following comments, which I have somewhat hurriedly prepared just in  
order to make these issues public, and where I make no pretence at  
all that this is a comprehensive discussion of the paper.

Finally, let me make clear that there are my personal views, and not  
of the organisation I work with, where we have not had time to  
discuss all this as yet :

1.     At first sight and reading, this is obviously a serious  
document that should be critically discussed within the WSF (and not  
only at and in the International Council), and also in and among  
movements and organisations themselves.  Most particularly, because  
it poses questions and issues at a ‘global’ level – not only  
geographically but also conceptually and systemically.

2.     It’s also good to see and know that the IC is commissioning  
such papers and then discussing them, because it lends a very  
necessary organised seriousness to its work, including of  
deliberating on general issues such as to how take forward the WSF as  
a process and also on more particular ones, such as where to hold the  
next world meeting of this world process.

3.     Having said this, I want to make some comments, first about  
process and then about content.  I have to first say that I  
personally find the language of the paper dense, ideologically  
muffled, and difficult to penetrate; and perhaps as a result, I am  
not always sure that I know what it is saying or wants to say, or  
what its positions are.  My first thought was that maybe the problem  
was that it has no defined author - that it was perhaps an analysis  
written by a committee !  Or that it perhaps had lost something in  
translation, somewhere.  But on some digging, I have realised that  
this is in fact only a slightly revised (and retitled) draft of a  
paper that was also circulated and verbally presented at the IC  
meeting in Belém this past January, with that version authored by  
Gustave Massiah, as President of CRID (Centre de Recherche et  
d'Information pour le Développment), in France.1  This fact however  
raises 2-3 questions : One, if this paper was already presented to  
and discussed at the IC meeting in Belém, why is it being presented  
again, and in a (only slightly) revised form ?  On the one hand, is  
it really for discussion, or is it actually for (quick) adoption ?   
(Which is rather different, especially when it comes from something  
called a “Strategy Commission”.  And I come back to this below.)  And  
on the other, why is presenting this paper for a second time being  
privileged over, say, a continued reflection on what happened at  
Belém – which I have seen some IC members vehemently objecting to, on  
a list ?  How does such privilege get decided ?  Who decides this ?

4.     Two, while not mentioning on the paper itself that it has been  
put forward by the IC’s Strategy Commission may just be an oversight,  
I find the lack of acknowledgement that this paper is only a slightly  
re-worked version of one by an individual a little problematic; and  
if there is anyone reading this posting who belongs to the Strategy  
Commission and/or the WSF Secretariat, I would like to strongly  
request that these shortcomings be addressed, and before the IC  
meeting, not after.  Personally, I find this opacity, and this  
anonymity, a little worrying, if - among other things – it is indeed  
a document that some people want something like the International  
Council of the World Social Forum to debate – and (it has to be  
assumed) adopt.  In something like the WSF process, we need to know  
clearly who is putting forward strategies, and why.  This should be  
transparent.  Even the names of the members of the Strategy  
Commission that authored this should be either mentioned or a link  
given to where we can find this.  In short, and as some others and I  
have often called for before this, the WSF needs to have a far more  
consistently open, and less hidden and anonymous, process.  And if it  
is only oversight that has led to this in this case, then it should  
try to become less casual and sloppy, and/or private, from now on.   
It needs to become much more aware of its significance in the world,  
and of the importance of public accountability.  It is not a private  

I end these process points by underlining that even though this might  
have been the ideal approach for me to take, I have not had the time  
since seeing this revised paper to do the background research that  
could answer these questions, and so I ask them openly here because I  
think it is better to ask these questions – even if there are simple  
answers – than not ask them.

Okay; now to move to some of the content :

5.     The characterisation of what is in this paper termed the  
“alter-globalisation movement” as (a) one (ie in the singular) and  
therefore monolithic, and (b) uniformly “progressive” is, to say the  
least, forced, not to speak of false.  (One place among many where  
this uniformity is asserted is in the opening line, where the  
document says that The alter-globalisation movement is ‘anti- 
systemic’ – thereby implying that It (with a capital I) is one and  
that It stands together in being Against The System.)  It is surely  
time to, first, come to terms with the fact that even within what  
might be called ‘civil’ movements, there are many different  
tendencies, with many internal contradictions, and that they cannot  
and should not be all lumped together – even in a broad-brush  
sketch.  If anything, it is precisely the diversity and complexity,  
and at another level the weak links that exist between the different  
tendencies, that is the beauty and strength of (world) movement  
today.  On the other hand, it is also the case that when we dig a  
little past the surface class, race, and gender similarities and  
affinities, there are many profound contradictions between the  
positions taken by individual constituents of this so-called  
‘movement’.  This is so readily evident in the IC itself, where many  
who are there have mixed (and sometimes ambiguous) views on even the  
key issue that the WSF says it wants to address, neoliberal  
globalisation. This is all the more important since in this paper  
(and in others of this kind) It / this singular movement is sought to  
be characterised as the (singular) agent of (revolutionary) change.   
This is a false characterisation, and a false and therefore dangerous  
foundation for analysis and strategy.  In short, this aspect of the  
paper – and in way, the whole of it rests on this - needs major  

6.     The paper is all about the so-called AGM (and not about the  
WSF), and/but there is no discussion at all in the paper of the place  
within the AGM of the WSF (and of the IC), and of their  
interrelations, other than asserting that the IC “must engage with  
these developments [that the paper deals with] with a great deal of  
seriousness and innovativeness”.  In other words, it seems to sort of  
assume (but not stated) that the WSF is a part of the AGM – and  
implicitly, since it mentions no other, only of the AGM, and of no  
other larger, wider movement.  I would like to suggest that this  
question of location and relation is a key part of any strategic  
perspective that the IC might like to develop – and also this  
question of whether the WSF only belongs to the so-called AGM, and  
whether it should only belong to this.  (And for that matter, since  
the WSF’s Charter resonantly says that the WSF and the IC are not  
representative, then whether the IC can even decide on something like  
this.)  These are surely key questions for reflection within the IC.

7.     The lack of discussion of the (class, caste, race, and gender)  
relations of the AGM (and implicitly, as above, of the WSF) with  
other contemporary global socio-political actors and their various  
ways of thinking is glaring – and to my mind, staggering, especially  
given that the Belém Forum (with its much-vaunted focus on indigenous  
peoples) has just taken place; such as indigenous peoples’ movements  
in different parts of the world, movements of faith (and in  
particular, the Islamic movements that are also so important today),  
and movements among and of unrepresented nations and peoples; among  
others.  To the opposite, the attitude of the paper towards such  
movements – who have their own conceptualisations and cosmologies of  
social justice – ranges between being arrogant and dismissive to  
paternalistic.  (For instance, it suggests rather vaguely and  
dismissively on p 3 that (all) “various other movements” are  
“fundamentalist”.)  Though it does not go that far, by focussing only  
on itself / the AGM, the paper comes dangerously close to an elitist  
and separatist position.  I have elsewhere argued that this is the  
role that “civil society” has historically always played;2 it is  
worrying to sense that despite the widening of the composition of the  
IC in recent years to include mass movements, this is once again  
being proposed as its position and approach.  This is perhaps a  
result of how theory and strategy is being formulated within the IC –  
in the old way, by theory givers.

Given that the IC includes among its members organisations such as  
the WCC (the World Council of Churches), and also individuals such as  
François Houtart, as well as so many mass movements (though sadly, so  
far only one indigenous peoples’ movement), and given their  
extraordinary individual and organisational histories in this area  
over so many decades now, I sincerely hope that this kind of position  
will not get past the IC without very serious challenge and debate.   
But if this movement, ie the one that the paper argues that the IC  
should exclusively concern itself with and see itself as being a part  
of (and even accepting the singularisation, for the moment), cannot  
get past this attitude, I believe it will fall (or has already  
fallen) into the same colonialist, colonising mindset that all powers  
have historically had, whether state or civil; and will live out the  
same history – of oppression, not liberation, and certainly not  

In short, while it is of course important to not be self-deprecating  
– and especially in a paper of this scope - I therefore find it  
unfortunately self-centred, self-congratulatory, and arrogant; and  
somewhat complacent.  There is little or no reflection in it, let  
alone self-critical reflection.  In my view, these are not the  
characteristics that a WSF strategy paper should have, and that to  
the contrary, the paper – and hopefully also the WSF - needs to be  
more humble in its approach to the world and to the many ways that it  
is unfolding.

The WSF, in fact, has a lot to learn in this area from the  
Zapatistas, among other indigenous peoples – and it would in fact  
make it a lot of sense if the IC were to take this opportunity of a  
review of its strategy to not just learn from the Zapatistas but to  
review and revise its policy and stance that has kept them out of the  
Forum process – and actively invite them to join.  It is not that the  
IC itself is arrogant; to the contrary, I believe that it, like the  
WSF and as a part of it, is an extraordinary experiment in building  
another praxis.  But - in my view - it is precisely the underlying  
current that is the power (and arrogance) of civility that tends to  
lead it, and those who lead the “AGM”, to behave, sometimes  
subconsciously, as if they are the ones whose duty and role it is to  
determine the future of the world.  In short, and even though the  
paper portrays the AGM as being in contention with the system, I see  
the underlying drive in this paper is to be in power, and one of  
power - over others, and in this case, other movements.  Will the IC  
be willing to take a deep look at this, at this time ?  And to decide  
whether this is the politics it wants to practice ?

8.     I also find the assertion that the paper makes on the very  
first page that the entire, global (so-called) AGM is today all about  
“fundamental rights”, to be not only very questionable but also  
worrying.  First, it again shoehorns everyone into the same box, and  
second, this implicitly means that the AGM is, far from being anti- 
systemic (let alone autonomist), pro-systemic and statist (because in  
today’s world, there are no such rights without the state).  Is this  
how the AGM, and the IC, sees itself ?  More to the point, is this  
how those who are the core strategists within the WSF see the WSF and  
“the AGM”, and the politics of social change ?

9.     Finally in this list of concerns, in my understanding this  
stance is only reinforced in the section on p 4 on where the paper  
presents what it calls six “opportunities of the global crisis”.  In  
some ways, this section is the heart of the paper, and of the  
strategic perspective it offers.  I am here not going to into the  
content of the formulations (except to say that these are also kept  
disappointingly - and somewhat curiously for a strategy paper -  
brief, and in rather muffled language).  What I would prefer to focus  
on, and ask you to focus on, is the politics of the proposals (as far  
as I can make this out !).  In short, I find the proposals – for how  
to take advantage of the present crises and to change the world - to  
be deeply resonant of an earlier, state-centric view of the world;  
and to be almost unaware of the new, more autonomist, localist,  
social relations that are already so strongly emerging among social  
movements, let alone putting forward any new proposals.  It almost  
baffles me (and certainly worries me) to think that something like  
the WSF might even consider taking such positions and practising such  
politics.  I certainly hope that we can here discuss this in depth,  
and that the IC will also do so.

The paper also resonantly declares and proposes that “The alter- 
globalist movement must be directed to embrace and strengthen these  
opportunities.”  (Emphasis mine.)  … Is this really a core strategic  
position and approach that the IC of the WSF would be willing to  
endorse ?  But more to the point, do I hear echoes of the Group of  
Nineteen’s ‘Porto Alegre Manifesto’ in February 2005 ?3  And echoes  
also of the Bamako Appeal, in January 2007 ?4  (It’s another two  
years on from then, and so maybe it’s that time again…)  I urge you  
to take a look at the paper in this perspective, and towards this,  
also at some of the essays in a reader on all this – on the constant  
attempt within the Forum to give to it a singular political programme  
- that some us prepared back in 2007.5 And it is within this  
perspective that I think we might also want to look at how and why  
more or less the same paper has been presented at two consecutive  
meetings of the IC, as mentioned above.

But the big differences this time are one, whereas the Porto Alegre  
Manifesto and the Bamako Appeal came sort of from outside, this one  
is coming up from the inside.

And that two, that this paper is recommending that the IC should see  
it as its duty and responsibility not only to adopt such a programme  
but also to direct – and thereby presumably, seek to lead - the whole  
of the so-called AGM.

Is this, and should this be, what the WSF is about ?

10.   In sum, my overall and underlying feeling is that the paper is  
far too much written to equip the WSF to move into and/or retain a  
position of power, rather than being about change as such, let alone  
emancipatory change; and I believe and suggest that this is a  
fundamentally flawed strategy that the IC should not adopt.

11.   To end on a more humorous note : The paper also says “The alter- 
globalist movement will be faced with attempts at radical reform…”.   
Like this one ?!   Beware, beware !

Jai Sen


1 The paper circulated at the Belém IC meeting in January 2009 was  
titled ‘The Dangers and Opportunities of the Global Crisis’, dated  
January 15 2009, and labelled as a “Contribution to the Strategy  
Commission of the World Social Forum’s International Council”.
2 Jai Sen, November 2007 – ‘The power of civility’, in Mikael Löfgren  
& Håkan Thörn, eds, 2007 – ‘Global Civil Society – More Or Less  
Democracy?’, special issue of Development Dialogue, no 49, pp 51-68;  
available for download on www.dhf.uu.se.
3  Group of Nineteen, February 2005 – ‘Porto Alegre Manifesto’, dated  
February 20 2005.  Accessed 041006 @ http://www.zmag.org/sustainers/ 
4 Forum for Another Mali, World Forum for Alternatives (France),  
Third World Forum Forum (Senegal), ENDA (Senegal), and ors, January  
2006 - ‘The Bamako Appeal’, January 18 2006.  Text as circulated by  
Samir Amin, President of the World Forum for Alternatives.  Available  
for signing @ http://thirdworldforum.net/fren/index.htm, and  
otherwise @ http://www.openspaceforum.net/twiki/tiki-read_article.php? 
articleId=66, http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/bamako.html, http:// 
5 Jai Sen and Madhuresh Kumar, compilers, with Patrick Bond and Peter  
Waterman, January 2007 – A Political Programme for the World Social  
Forum?  Democracy, Substance, and Debate in the Bamako Appeal and the  
Global Justice Movements - A Reader.  Published by CACIM (Critical  
Action : Centre in Movement), New Delhi, India, and University of  
KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society (CCS), Durban, South Africa.   
Soft copy available @ www.cacim.net and www.nu.ac.za/ccs.
    In particular, I strongly recommend that you read the essay by  
Kolya Abramsky in this reader, titled ‘The Bamako Appeal and The  
Zapatista 6th Declaration – Between Creating New Worlds and  
Reorganizing the Existing One’, which is a brilliant comparative  
discussion of two very different approaches to change.  This essay is  
now also available in a developed form as CE1 in the Critical  
Engagement series from CACIM and available in soft copy at  
www.cacim.net; retitled ‘The Bamako Appeal and the Zapatista 6th  
Declaration - From Reorganizing the Existing World to Creating New  

On Apr 23 09, at 10:15 AM, Madhuresh wrote:
> -------- Original Message --------
> Subject:	[Wsfic-methodology] EN/ES/PT Strategy Commission Crisis  
> Paper; Paper sobre la crise, por la Comision de Estrategia / Texto  
> sobre a crise, pela Comissão de Estratégia
> Date:	Wed, 22 Apr 2009 17:19:54 -0300
> From:	WSFIC_FSMCI <fsmci at forumsocialmundial.org.br>
> Reply-To:	wsfic-methodology at listas.rits.org.br
> To:	wsfic_fsmci at listas.rits.org.br
> CC:	wsfic-expansion at listas.rits.org.br, wsfic- 
> communication at listas.rits.org.br, wsfic- 
> strategies at listas.rits.org.br, wsfic-methodology at listas.rits.org.br
> (Castellano abajo; Português abaixo)
> ------------------------- ENGLISH -------------------------
> Dear IC members,
> As you know, the next IC meeting will take place from March the  
> 06th until March the 09th in Rabat, Morocco.
> Two sessions will be held for a strategy discussion concerning the  
> global crisis, the WSF's role and its future.
> Hereby enclosed is a paper to be used as basis for the discussion  
> (versions in English and Spanish). Those willing to send comments  
> or suggestions are welcome to do so until March the 02nd.
> The suggested format for the seminar is:
> 1. Opening
> 2. Debate on the Global Crisis
> 3. Debate on the WSF's role and its future
> 4. Ending
> Regards,
> Ana Maria, on behalf of Strategy Commission.
> ------------------------- CASTELLANO -------------------------
> Estimados miembros del CI,
> Como todos ustedes saben, la próxima reunión del CI se celebrará  
> entre los días 06 y 09 de mayo de 2009 en Rabat, en Marruecos.
> Habrá dos turnos para un debate estratégico sobre la crisis  
> mundial, el papel del FSM y su futuro.
> Os enviamos en adjunto un texto de base para la discusión (en  
> Inglés y Castellano). Aquellos que deseen enviar sugerencias o  
> comentarios del texto pueden hacerlo hasta el día 02 de Mayo.
> El formato propuesto para el seminario es lo que sigue:
> 1. Abertura
> 2. Debate sobre crisis mundial
> 3. Debate sobre el papel del FSM y su futuro
> 4. Clausura
> Atentamente,
> Ana Maria, por la Comisión de Estrategia.
> ------------------------- PORTUGUÊS -------------------------
> Prezados Membros do CI,
> como todos sabem a próxima reunião do CI será entre os dias 06 e 09  
> de maio de 2009 em Rabat no Marrocos.
> Teremos dois turnos para uma discussão estratégica sobre a crise  
> global, o papel do FSM e seu futuro.
> Enviamos em anexo um texto base para a discussão (em inglês e  
> castelhano). Aqueles que quiserem enviar sugestões de texto podem  
> fazê-lo até o dia 02 de maio.
> O formato sugerido para o seminário é o seguinte:
> 1. Abertura
> 2. Debate sobre a Crise Global
> 3. Debate sobre o papel do FSM e seu futuro
> 4. Encerramento
> Atenciosamente,
> Ana Maria, pela Comissão de Estratégia
> -- 
> **********************************************
> Office :
> A-3 Defence Colony, New Delhi 110 024, India
> Ph / Fx : +91-11-4155 1521 [O]
> madhuresh at cacim.net [Work]
> www.cacim.net / www.openspaceforum.net
> Residence :
> 32-D, DDA Flats, Masjid Moth, Phase I, New Delhi 110 048
> Ph : +91-11-2624 2140 (R), +91-98-18 905316 [Mobile]
> Email : kmadhuresh at gmail.com [Personal]
> <strategy commission crisis paper.doc><comision estrategia paper  
> crise_ES.doc>
> _______________________________________________
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Jai Sen
jai.sen at cacim.net
CACIM, A-3 Defence Colony, New Delhi 110 024, India
Ph : +91-11-4155 1521, +91-98189 11325 - PLEASE NOTE NEW SECOND NUMBER !

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