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

Peter Waterman peterwaterman1936 at gmail.com
Fri Apr 30 11:39:57 CDT 2010


In so far as you seem to have asked Jai for a piece of mine on the newest 
internationalisms, I thought you might like to see my last piece.



From: "nikolai smith" <smith.nikolai at gmail.com>
Sent: Thursday, April 29, 2010 10:12 PM
To: "Jai Sen" <jai.sen at cacim.net>
Cc: "Post Social Movements" <social-movements at listserv.heanet.ie>; "Post 
WSFDiscuss" <WorldSocialForum-Discuss at openspaceforum.net>; "Post Activism 
News Network" <activism-news-network at googlegroups.com>
Subject: Re: [WSF-Discuss] Fwd: Beyond a 5th International (Question-Mark)

> 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
>> email ids, jai.sen at vsnl.com and jai_sen2000 at yahoo.com. PLEASE KINDLY 
>> 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)
>> Check
>> out both CACIM @ www.cacim.net and OpenSpaceForum @ 
>> www.openspaceforum.net
>> Subscribe to WSFDiscuss, an open and unmoderated forum on the World 
>> Social
>> Forum and on related social and political movements and issues. Simply 
>> send
>> an empty email to worldsocialforum-discuss-subscribe at openspaceforum.net
>> P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail
>> Note : In case you are having problems opening any Word attachments I 
>> have
>> sent you, you could try one of the following : (a) Put your cursor on the
>> icon, do a right click, see ‘Open With’, and open with Word…; or (b), try
>> saving the document onto your desktop or hard disc, and then opening it.
>> With apologies in advance if this advice seems to question your
>> technological literacy…
>> _______________________________________________
>> ** WSFDiscuss is an open and unmoderated forum for the exchange of
>> information and views on the experience, practise, and theory of the 
>> World
>> Social Forum at any level (local, national, regional, and global) and on
>> related social and political movements and issues.  Join in !**
>> _______________________________________________
>> WSFDiscuss mailing list
>> POST to LIST : Send email to WorldSocialForum-Discuss at openspaceforum.net
>> SUBSCRIBE: Send empty email to
>> worldsocialforum-discuss-subscribe at openspaceforum.net
>> UNSUBSCRIBE: Send empty email to
>> worldsocialforum-discuss-unsubscribe at openspaceforum.net
>> http://openspaceforum.net/pipermail/worldsocialforum-discuss_openspaceforum.net/
>> http://mail.openspaceforum.net/mailman/listinfo/worldsocialforum-discuss_openspaceforum.net
> -- 
> Nikolai "Nicky" Smith
> 4th Floor, UNI Building, Thimmiah Road
> Vasanth Nagar
> Bangalore, India  560052
> Ph Cell: +91-95-91326202
> Fax: +91-80-41277104
> "Any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the
> process of inquiry is one of violence;… to alienate humans from their
> own decision making is to change them into objects."
> — Paulo Freire
> _______________________________________________
> ** WSFDiscuss is an open and unmoderated forum for the exchange of 
> information and views on the experience, practise, and theory of the World 
> Social Forum at any level (local, national, regional, and global) and on 
> related social and political movements and issues.  Join in !**
> _______________________________________________
> WSFDiscuss mailing list
> POST to LIST : Send email to WorldSocialForum-Discuss at openspaceforum.net
> SUBSCRIBE: Send empty email to 
> worldsocialforum-discuss-subscribe at openspaceforum.net
> UNSUBSCRIBE: Send empty email to 
> worldsocialforum-discuss-unsubscribe at openspaceforum.net
> http://openspaceforum.net/pipermail/worldsocialforum-discuss_openspaceforum.net/
> http://mail.openspaceforum.net/mailman/listinfo/worldsocialforum-discuss_openspaceforum.net
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: ManyNewInternationals#2.doc
Type: application/msword
Size: 245248 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://openspaceforum.net/pipermail/worldsocialforum-discuss_openspaceforum.net/attachments/20100430/689d8633/attachment.doc>

More information about the WorldSocialForum-Discuss mailing list