[WSF-Discuss] Fwd: Beyond a 5th International (Question-Mark)

nikolai smith smith.nikolai at gmail.com
Thu Apr 29 22:12:48 CDT 2010


On Wed, Feb 3, 2010 at 1:55 PM, Jai Sen <jai.sen at cacim.net> wrote:
> Wednesday, February 3 2010
>
>
>
> Here, further to my posting just now titled ‘A proposal seeking your
> Endorsement...’ is a comment on this proposal by evergreen internationalist
> Peter Waterman…
>
>
>
> As always, it is well worth reading… Thanks, Peter !
>
>
>
>             JS
>
>
>
> fwd
>
> Begin forwarded message:
>
> From: Peter Waterman <p.waterman at inter.nl.net>
> Date: February 2 2010 7:40:12 pm GMT+05:30
> To: DEBATE <debate-list at fahamu.org>, Gina Vargas <ginvargas at gmail.com>,
> Boaventura de Sousa Santos <bsantos at ces.uc.pt>, Elsa Duhagon
> <eduhagon at item.org.uy>, "jai.sen at cacim.net" <jai.sen at cacim.net>, hilary
> wainright <hilary1 at manc.org>, Daniel Chavez <chavez at tni.org>
> Subject: Beyond a 5th International (Question-Mark)
> Reply-To: pwaterma at gmail.com
> Peter sez: This is a minimally edited version of a 'comment' I just
> contributed on Michael Albert's piece on his own website, Znet (for which
> see immediately below. Now read on...
>
> Beyond a 5th International (Question-Mark):
> A Global Justice and Solidarity Network (Exclamation-Mark)
>
> Peter Waterman
> Global Labour Charter Project
> pwaterma at gmail.com
> blog.choike.org/eng/tag/peter-waterman
>
>
> As someone who has been writing about and involved with the ‘new
> internationalisms’ for some decades now,* I welcome Michael Albert’s
> initiative for a new international, entitled, simply, ‘Fifth
> International?’, http://www.zmag.org/znet/ viewArticle/23692.
>
> Michael’s own proposal follows on experience with 1) the Brazilian
> PT-sponsored Sao Paulo Forum of Left Latin-American parties (1990), of 2)
> the World Social Forum since 2001, 3) initiatives of the Marxist
> political-economist, Samir Amin, in or around the World Social Forum, and 3)
> that of President Hugo Chavez (leader not only of the ‘21st Century
> Socialist’ state of Venezuela but also of its new political party, the
> PSUV).
>
> Proposals for a Fifth International inevitably see themselves as descendents
> of  four previous labour and/or socialist internationals. Michael’s proposal
> takes distance from these but shares the socialist institutional idea and is
> apparently addressed to the conference on a Fifth International called for
> by Hugo Chavez, to take place in Venezuela, April
> 2010,  http://www.greenleft.org.au/2009/ 820/42139 . I say ‘apparently’
> because 1) Michael does not really discuss the Chavez project nor, 2) is it
> clear to me how his proposal might be presented prior to or at this
> conference. Whether and how the two eventually relate - or fail to do so –
> to each other may give us more to say about both.
>
> Given 1) the limitations or failures of all previous Left internationals
> (Labour, Socialist, Communist, Radical-Nationalist), given 2) the
> self-imposed limitations on the World Social Forum (otherwise a novel and
> valuable site of dialogue and networking amongst many of those opposed to
> neo-liberalism), I also actually welcome the Chavez initiative.
>
> The Fifth International of Hugo Chavez provides, if nothing else, a
> considerable stimulus to discussion about Left internationalism. I have,
> however, no positive expectations of the Chavez project. It is, indeed, a
> successor to the previous institutional internationals even if it is marked
> by the experience of the WSF and the global justice and solidarity movement
> more generally. I expect that it will, after a colourful launching party,
> either fail to take off, crash and burn, or face a long decline till nothing
> remains but an office, occasional rhetorical declarations and the now
> obligatory – if non-dialogical - website. (For such cases, visit the sites
> of the (ex-?)Communist World Federation of Trade
> Unions, www.wftucentral.org/?language=en, or the Cuban
> Tricontinental,http://www.ospaaal.com/).
>
> Given, in any case, the state-party source of the Chavez initiative I
> believe that any radical-democratic or participatory-socialist alternative
> to such, has to specify on the concept of  'autonomy'. This because most
> previous Left internationals (not to speak of such Thirdworldist ones as the
> Indonesian-based Bandung Conference of 1955, or the Cuban-sponsored
> Tricontinental of 1968) have foundered on the rocks of State or Party, on
> the barren shores of statism and partijnost (Russian: party-ness).
>
> I take ‘autonomy’ to imply independence from domination by capital (money),
> state (power from above) and parties (mediators between these hegemons and
> society). ‘Autonomy’ from such implies a primary source in and address to
> the collective self-activity of radically-democratic social movements, their
> support bodies, academics, cultural activists and others related to such.
> The World Social Forum prefigures such an autonomy but must, I think, be
> seen as having one foot in the past as well as one in the future.  (The WSF
> frequently provides a stage for statesmen and political parties, is
> financially dependent on mostly-Western foundations or state-dependent
> funding agencies, and it has an overwhelmingly middle-class participation).
>
> I would prefer to exclude Left political parties, given their common
> state-dependence and/or their quasi-universal statism - meaning their
> prioritisation of the state (or inter-state organisations), and vanguardism.
> We must recall the historical tendency of each to consider itself the
> primary agent of emancipation and thus to be heavily, if not primarily,
> involved in 1) competitive relations with other parties, and 2) domination/
> patronage relations with social movements. If, however, such parties were to
> be included, there would have to be some procedure which prevented one or
> more of such gaining, through its own financial or organisational power
> (whether in alliance with others or not), hegemony over the whole.
>
> Political parties, in any case, are a form thrown up in the national,
> industrial capitalist era. And Left political parties have customarily
> reproduced the ‘iron law of oligarchy’ first identified in relation to the
> German Social-Democratic movement 100 years ago. Moreover, in so far as
> alienated social categories and social movements have developed their
> capacities for self-representation, the primacy of such mediating bodies has
> been increasingly challenged. Such a challenge comes not only from the
> newest social movements but from increasing social skepticism toward
> ‘politics’ and politicians.
>
> Hegemonisation is not, of course, a problem limited to Left political
> parties. Social movements based in or originating from the North can act as
> patrons in relation to Southern ones or those of the poverty-stricken
> ex-Soviet bloc. Given this tendency, the granting of voting power according
> to organizational membership would be fatal.
>
> A hypothetical example. The Brussels-based and West-Europe-dominated
> International Trade Union Confederation claims to represent 175 million
> workers, and assumes also to speak for the working class(es) worldwide. It
> is active within the WSF, is represented on its International Council (but
> does not here carry 175 million votes since, even if voting were to occur,
> it would only have one vote)! If the ITUC (or simply a number of its
> international, regional or national affiliates) were to affiliate to any new
> international, it or they would surely at least dominate, if not determine,
> its agenda on labour (or, in Michael’s project, ‘economic’) issues. And then
> there is the problem that whilst the ITUC knows it represents 175 million
> workers, they do not know it represents them! The ITUC is actually an
> international confederation of national trade unions (or their leaderships)
> and ‘representation’ here is therefore both distant and mediated through two
> or more levels before reaching Brussels.
>
>             With the exception of the WSF, all the above-mentioned
> internationals were born in, or bear the heavy marks (not to mention Marx)
> of the national, industrial, colonial, capitalist era. We are, however, now
> living in an increasingly global, informatised, complex and networked
> capitalist era. Given the growing centrality of cyberspace, of its
> increasingly effective employment by the newest (global) social movements,
> given the relational principle of networking, I think that any new
> internationalist project has to be spelled out in cyberspatial terms. Given,
> further, the inevitable elitism/bureaucracy of any institutionalised
> internationalism, requiring offices, conferences, long-distance travel (all
> environmentally unfriendly) I favour the prioritization of cyberspace and
> ICT (information and communication technology) – what Manuel Castells calls
> 'real virtuality' - as the basis of any new international. We all know about
> the inequalities and biases inherent in computer and internet activity, and
> that cyberspace is itself an increasingly disputed terrain. But, as Michael
> implies, and as ZCommunications demonstrates, the internet allows for
> solving problems with which previous emancipatory projects have been
> repeatedly faced. There is actually an affinity between the newest (global)
> social movements and the supra-global logic of the internet, world-wide web,
> cyberspace.
>
> Any new international(ism) needs to be have a clearly expressed
> 'preferential option for the poor' (liberation theology), or act as an
> 'intentional open space' (to paraphrase Jeff Juris on the Atlanta Social
> Forum in the US). This would mean overcoming the traditional hegemony, also
> within the WSF, of hitherto privileged classes or social categories (eg. men
> with respect to women, North to South, the funders to the funded, the
> heterosexual to the other-sexual, the urban to the rural, the national to
> the local, the ethnically dominant to the ethnic minorities).
>
> Any new international(ism)  also has to be significantly
> more historically-aware than either the Chavez or the Michael Albert project
> has yet shown itself to be. It is not sufficient to make reference to
> previous Left internationals, or to simply castigate them (as I have also
> tended above to do!). Those who do not know their own history or pre-history
> are condemned to repeat it.
>
> There has to be an explicit process of self-reflexivity built in to any such
> project – of means by which it is open to and capable of encouraging and
> hosting critique, whether this comes from 'inside' or 'outside'. The WSF has
> been remarkably open to such, if often in marginal and informal ways. It has
> also provided a major stimulus to such. In and around the WSF (within the
> global justice and solidarity movement more generally) there is a
> more-intensive, wider and deeper wave of discussion and research than has
> been stimulated by previous internationals or internationalisms.
>
> The implication of these remarks are that the few weeks left before the
> Chavez-sponsored conference are far too short for discussion on the nature
> of a new international(ism) which will not reproduce the ideological or
> structural shortcomings - or the counter-productive, or Eurocentric, or
> androcentric nature - of previous Left internationals.
>
> Given, moreover, that Michael’s is so far an individual initiative, it
> requires the active contribution, not simply the endorsement, of movements,
> organisations, individuals, beyond the most immediate or familiar
> constituencies. More specifically, it requires collective reflection on such
> relevant contributions to re-thinking of relations between social movements
> and political organizations/institutions as those made by Ezequiel
> Adamovsky (‘On the necessity of an "interface" that enables the passage from
> social to political’, http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/3911),
> of  the feminists, and even, I don't mind saying, my own Global Labour
> Charter project at www. netzwerkit.de/projekte/waterman/gc.
>
> Without claiming any notable success for my internationalist labour project,
> I have tried to think it out in relationship to the new internationalisms
> (note the plural) of a complex, globalised, informatised capitalist era.
> What these new internationalisms, which I call ‘the global solidarity and
> justice movement’, are successfully doing is done through a myriad of
> networks, even if these involve or include traditional institutions or
> organizations. Many, if not all, of these networks themselves overlap. In
> other words, a movement exists, coming together on particular issues
> (climate change), events (social forums). Their articulation (meaning both
> joining and expression) is made possible by computer-mediated communication.
> Which is why we are increasingly moving into an age of ‘communication
> internationalisms’.
>
> The virtual members of this still inchoate community have been moving from a
> common anti-neoliberal to an increasingly anti-capitalist discourse (thanks
> to capitalism’s increasingly evident and dramatic disasters!). Yet, most of
> them are extremely nervous about being ‘captured’, ‘incorporated, ‘used’ or
> otherwise instrumentalised. Given the past history of the institutionalized
> Left internationals, they have good reason to be. Whilst actively and
> creatively addressed to one or more of capitalism’s alienations, and equally
> concerned with emancipation from such, they are also nervous of adopting
> traditional ideological labels, such as ‘socialism’ or ‘communism’ (not only
> in the US but in countries with previous experience of such!). These
> once-emancipatory labels carry heavy historical burdens – many having
> reproduced the alienations they originally opposed. Which is why we see
> increasing discussion about such admittedly problematic concepts such as
> ‘the commons’, ‘radical democracy’, ‘civil society’.
>
> I should at this point say that I am more open to the project of the
> Bolivian President, Evo Morales, for a conference on a ‘Peoples’ World
> Conference On Climate Change And The Rights Of Mother
> Earth’, www.cmpcc.org, also scheduled for April 2010. This is not primarily
> a matter of preference for the Bolivian over the Venezuelan state, or of Evo
> over Hugo. It is because this initiative is NOT ideologically-politically
> specified, NOT universalistic (addressing everything everywhere), does NOT
> propose a new institution, uses new language (the rights of the earth?), and
> is directly addressed to one specific and fundamental global issue. Any
> social movement attending is likely to feel it can enter and leave, having
> gained from the exchange, and with its autonomy intact.
>
> I will finish with an anecdote.
>
> Around 1992 I wrote a paper, based on a major international conference on
> international labour communication by computer. The paper was entitled,
> predictably, ‘International Labour Communication by Computer’. It was
> sub-titled, less predictably, ‘The Fifth International?’. The conference
> organisers were a little pissed both at my unlicensed intervention and its
> title, particularly since they were courting the traditional
> national-industrial-capitalist unions of a de-industrialising UK. And,
> indeed, when, during negotiations, a leader of one of unions laid his eyes
> on the paper he expostulated: ‘What’s this Trotskyist crap then!’. I don’t
> imagine he bothered to read the text, the conclusion of which was that if we
> had International Labour Communication by Computer we wouldn’t need a Fifth
> International.
>
> *For some of my previous writings on internationalism, see, in English,
> http://www. choike.org/nuevo_eng/informes/6439.html, and in
> Spanish, http://www.democraciaglobal.org/index.php?fp_verpub=true&idpub=75).
>
>
> --
> I am phasing out my p.waterman at inter.nl.net account.
> Pls remove it from address books and replace with pwaterma at gmail.com
>
> ______________________________
> Jai Sen
> jai.sen at cacim.net
> CACIM, A-3 Defence Colony, New Delhi 110 024, India
> www.cacim.net
> Ph : +91-11-4155 1521, +91-98189 11325
>
> DELETION OF OLD EMAIL IDs : Please note that I am no longer using my earlier
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> THESE FROM YOUR RECORDS ! Thanks.
>
> NEW :
> ‘On open space : Explorations towards a vocabulary of a more open politics’,
>http://cacim.net/twiki/tiki-index.php?page=Publications (May 20 2009)
>
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-- 
Nikolai "Nicky" Smith

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