European Social Forum offers no alternative to capitalism
The World Social Forum has recently been held in Mumbai (Bombay), India. This grand festival of 'anti-globalisation' gathered together 80,000 people of numerous political colours and social backgrounds under the slogan 'another world is possible'. In a forthcoming issue of WR, we hope to publish a report on this event written by comrades in India who intervened at some of its many meetings and debates. In the meantime, we are publishing an article written by our French section, Revolution Internationale, on the European Social Forum held in Paris last November. As the article shows, this was yet another rally 'against capitalism' supported from start to finish by the bourgeoisie.
After Porto Alegre in January 2001, Florence in November 2002 and Larzac last summer, the great alternative world show has once again filled the rooms from the 12th to the 15th November in the towns of Paris, Ivry, Bobigny and Saint-Denis on the occasion of the second edition of the European Social Forum. Some hundreds of 'debates' were programmed with 50,000 people coming from the four corners of Europe. A demonstration on November 15, the grande finale of the Forum, brought out about 80,000 people. One could say that the 'alternative world' movement has the wind in its sails. And that doesn't displease the bourgeoisie, quite the contrary. Because it's the bourgeoisie which is its silent partner.
From its beginnings, with the World Social Forum of Porto Alegre, the dominant class has appeared as the main silent partner of the 'alternative world' movement. Thus, the paper, Le Monde Diplomatique and the association ATTAC, the emblem of this movement, was granted 80,000 Euros in January 2002 by the French minister of foreign affairs to financially support the organisation of the 2nd World Social Forum in Brazil. Similarly, some months ago at Larzac, the Regional Council of Midi-Pyrenees forked out a generous contribution of 50,000 Euros. For the European Social Forum of November last in Paris, the least that one can say is that the French bourgeoisie has not been tight-fisted.
Matignon has contributed 500,000 Euros to the 'alternative world' meeting. The general councils of Seine-Saint-Denis, Val de Marne and l'Essone have spent more than 600,000 Euros. Finally, the town hall of Paris has put one million Euros on the table and that of Saint-Denis 570,000. All this without taking into account the enormous logistics freely provided: town hall annexe, theatre, libraries, gymnasium and even local headquarters! "The financial and logistical effort which the Paris Council, the town hall arrondissement and the services of the town put at their disposal for the organisation of this event, the subsidies for fitting out the site of la Villette, the opening of spaces for meetings and lodgings...all this illustrates, I think, a will to be in tune with what's at stake in this assembly" (Bertrand Delanoe).
The involvement of the bourgeoisie in the 'alternative world' movement is so flagrant that it was the town halls in the cities where these events were taking place, via the Parti Communiste Francais or the Parti Socialiste for Paris, who had the great honour of giving the opening speech of the ESF on 12 November. The tone was set! There's nothing surprising about the important presence in the ESF of these bourgeois forces for controlling the working class - the unions and the parties of the left and extreme-left of capital. Effectively, numerous unions, such as the CGT, FO, CFDT, CFTC, the G10 Solidaires part of the SUD, the FSU and many others, from the German IG Metall to the Brazilian TUC, all experienced in the sabotage of class struggle and the techniques for mystifying the working class, not only animated a great number of debates, but some amongst them were co-organising the Forum. That says it all!
The same for the bourgeois parties, hypocritically forbidden from participating, but who in fact were present under the cover of associations, foundations or press organisations under their control. Thus the PS could benefit from the participation of its Young Socialist Movement, from the National Leo Lagrange Federation or the Jean Jaures Foundation. As to the PCF, it was present in the debate notably through its paper L'Humanite and its Karl Marx Foundation. The Trotskyist LCR also had the freedom of the city in the Forum via its weekly publication Rouge (for the duration becoming the daily of the ESF and distributed free) and its JCR - 'Revolutionary Communist Youth'.
Here is the real face of the animators and organisers of 'alternative worldism'. Here's what lies behind the so-called 'renewal' of the alternative political scene: all the old bourgeois merchants of the unions and social democracy, taking in Trotskyism and other components of leftism along the way.
'Alternative Worldism': a mystification to mask the crisis of capitalism
But why should the bourgeoisie give so much money and deploy so much energy in order to animate a movement which harps on about another world (even several) being possible and necessary since this one is not working? Has the bourgeoisie gone daft? Of course not! If it has created the 'alternative world' movement out of nothing, financed it and granted it so much publicity at an international level, it is because behind its mask of 'opposition' to the existing world order is hidden a powerful weapon of mystification against the working class.
The bankruptcy of capitalism is shown by the growing development of barbaric warfare in the four corners of the globe. It is also patently obvious when you look at the aggravation of the insoluble economic crisis, which results in violent attacks on workers' living conditions. The recent attacks around retirement and pensions throughout Europe bear witness to this. All these attacks inevitably raise questions about the future that capitalism has in store for us. For the dominant class, it is imperative to cut short this type of reflection. It is precisely this need which 'alternative worldism' serves. From this point of view, the set-up of the ESF speaks for itself. Four different towns, a headache to get around, 'debating' rooms dispersed from one end of town to the other like a maze. In short, everything planned so that there's the least meeting up and discussion possible outside of the official 'debates'. 'Debates' which, it must be said in passing, were completely stage-managed. In fact, speakers were exclusively experts (philosophers, journalists, trade union officials...) sharing out the role of 'orators' and 'moderators' in order to relegate the public to the role of simple spectators.
'Another world is possible'... 'yes, but which one?' That's the common and agreed critique made of 'alternative worldism' by the newspapers and television. And for good reason. Because it allows the Popes of the movement, like Bernard Cassen for ATTAC and Jose Bove for the Peasant Confederation, to come and explain why alternative worldism is not based on any precise perspective. 'We are reflecting on it' these gentlemen respond, and here is the aim of these ESF-type meetings; a massive 'brain-storming' in order to define the contours of this 'other world' or still more evasive, 'these possible worlds'. In fact, if 'alternative worldism' nestles in the most complete artistic blur it is precisely because it carries no alternative to capitalism but rather a real impasse for the working class.
"Against liberal globalisation, it is necessary to act HERE and NOW for a new social and economic logic!" declared a leaflet of the Republican and Citizens Movement. Here's the archetypal 'alternative worldist' chatter that has been spewed out during the ESF. If the world goes ill, good people, it's the fault of the 'neo-liberalism' of the unscrupulous and wicked multinationals stuffed with profits. In brief, a leftist rant in all its splendour which consists of raising a hue and cry against the villainous bosses 'who organise the system for their profit', made in order to whitewash the capitalist system and sow the illusion that it is useless to overthrow it since it is enough to exchange its 'liberal logic' for one that's more 'humane'.
Faced with all the crises and wars that have ravaged the human race for the past 100 years and more, all this is just ridiculous or, more accurately, it is shameless lying of the bourgeoisie.
"The process of capitalist production is determined by profit. For each capitalist, production has no sense unless it allows him to pocket a 'net gain' every year... But the fundamental law of capitalist production, contrary to any other economic form based on exploitation, is not simply the pursuit of a tangible profit but of an ever-growing profit" (Rosa Luxemburg, Anti-Critique).
"The growth of capital appears as the beginning and the end, the end in itself and the sense of all production... production for profit becomes the law over all the earth and under it, consumption, the insecurity of consumption and moments of non-consumption for the great majority of humanity, becomes the rule" (Rosa Luxemburg, Introduction to Political Economy).
This is the iron law, the immutable logic on which capitalism is based, and it is this which 'alternative worldism' tries to conjure away in order to establish its reformist ideology, ie, the illusion of capitalism with a human face.
The bourgeoisie has sufficient experience to know that it's the old pots that make the best stews. And the 'alternative worldist' stew that it is serving up to the proletariat, despite the pretence that it is something new, is nothing less that the re-heating of the good old pot of reformism.
Making out that another management of capitalism, a more humane management, is possible, is a monumental fraud perpetrated by this so-called 'full of hope' movement. A movement which aims at only one thing: preventing the working class from reaching the conclusion that capitalism is in a situation of irreversible, historical bankruptcy; that it is a system incapable of engendering anything other than misery and barbarity, and that this has been the case since its entrance into its period of decadence at the beginning of the 20th century.
The contribution of the anarchists to the trap of alternative worldism
All the same, a problem is posed for the ruling class: what to do with all those who don't feel suitably satisfied by a very clearly reformist ESF? What to do with all those who remain dubious about this vast masquerade of Stalinist inspiration where all the 'debates' are sorted out in advance? Fortunately 'alternative worldism' has thought of everything, including how to organise its own 'counter-forum', in the image of the Libertarian Social Forum that took place at Saint-Ouen at the same time.
"The libertarians propose some immediate demands which break with capitalism". They demand not "a reform of the capitalist economy but its abolition", contrary to the ESF that "doesn't call into question the market economy" (LSF website).
It's thus with a vocabulary borrowed from revolutionaries that the LSF, animated by the official organisations of anarchism (CNT, Libertarian Alternative, Anarchist Federation, OCL...) present and promote themselves. But very clearly, it's only a question here of a showcase whose objective is to attract more perplexed elements looking for a sharper perspective, in order to bring them back into the reformist bosom of 'alternative worldism'. The proof of this lies in the themes debated and the propositions of the LSF 'in order to try to construct alternatives' such as 'the access of all to culture', 'equal education for all' or 'a better sharing out of wealth', identical themes word for word to those programmed by the ESF and still revealing a full blown reformism.
On top of this, of course, comes the libertarian panacea of self-management, which has been revived by 'alternative worldism' as a whole with the famous notion of 'participative democracy'. A dangerous ideology inciting the workers to organise their own exploitation in the factories, or leading local populations to directly manage their own misery without ever being able to resolve it, as at Porto Alegre.
It was not by chance that the libertarians joined up with the alternative worldist procession of November 15, that they animated via Libertarian Alternative a debate within the ESF on the 'question of self-management', or that the Forum at Saint-Ouen was conceived in exactly the same framework as that of the ESF. In fact, on the internet site of the ESF, under the heading "Around the ESF" can be found all the information concerning the "anarchist counter-forum". Official anarchism is thus entirely a component part of 'alternative worldism'. A link in the chain taking a key role, that of a beater flushing out those most critical of the barbarity of the capitalist world, and driving them into the reformist trap of 'alternative worldism'.
The proletarian revolution is the only solution to capitalist bankruptcy
'Another world is possible... but above all not communism'. Here is the aim of the 'alternative world' movement: to impede the working class in its difficult effort to develop its class consciousness. In the 'alternative world' ideology, there is no question of a working class but of citizens fighting for their democratic rights or any number of inter-classist categories, homosexuals, women, those fighting for a 'world without pesticides' or for the protection of laboratory animals. No question of a proletarian revolution, but of amendments to bourgeois democracy (that's to say the most advanced form of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie against those it exploits).
Faced with the 'alternative worldist' offensive against the proletariat, which is aiming to blur its identity and class consciousness, revolutionaries cannot stand with folded arms. They have the responsibility of reaffirming that only a communist society constitutes a future for humanity, and only the working class is the bearer of this new world. "Inasmuch as the abolition of exploitation is identical, in the main, with the abolition of wages, only the class which submits to this specific form of exploitation, that's to say the proletariat, is up to carrying out such a revolutionary project... The communist project of the proletariat... is perfectly realistic, not only because capitalism has created the premises for such a society, but also because it is the only project which can bring humanity out of the swamp into which it is sinking" (International Review no. 73).
This was the whole sense of the intervention of the ICC against the trap of the ESF: sales of the press (in six languages) and the distribution of a leaflet at ESF sites and the November 15 demonstration; speaking in the ESF debates. All this illustrates the fiercely held will of the ICC to defend marxist positions and to demonstrate how 'alternative worldism' (from ATTAC to the anarchists of the LSF) is a trap directed against the proletariat.
It is only by developing its struggles on its own terrain against the capitalist system that the working class will be able to clearly lay out the perspective that another world is possible: communism.