WSF in Mumbai: A anti-imperialist bluff

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The World Social Forum, that has so far met annually in Porto Alegre, Brazil, this year met at Mumbai, India between Jan 16 and 21, 2004. The WSF at Mumbai was no different from other such gatherings. It had all the trappings of a gigantic fair (it was held at National Exhibitions Grounds, a venue of Trade Fairs) with pronounced 'ethnic' and 'tribal' flavour. The show was definitely big - nearly 80000 people from 132 countries are supposed to have participated in 1200 events around the WSF. Even more are supposed to have joined the Anti-American rally on 21st Jan 2004 at the end of the WSF.

We have often shown that the world bourgeoisie did everything it could to hit the consciousness of working class following the collapse of the stalinist bourgeoisie in the former Soviet Union. It tried to extinguish any thought of destroying the capitalist system. 'There is no alternative to the market economy', the ideologues of capital hammered day in and out. This lying propaganda did not go without its impact. But with deepening crises, spreading misery and more and more genocidal wars, this propaganda has become increasingly exposed. This has allowed the working class to recover the path of class combat and to start a process of questioning of the capitalist system. It has also provoked worldwide anger against the war mongering of the imperialist gangsters.

The bourgeoisie has taken note of this fermentation among the proletariat. It has set about building new instruments of mystification to contain this emerging process. Gatherings like the WSF and its offshoot the European Social Forum, with their sham 'alternatives', have emerged as an important tool of the bourgeoisie to contain the working class and also as a tool of inter-imperialist rivalries. The bourgeois media the world over have done everything possible to build up the WSF.

Long before WSF 2004 began, the bourgeois media in India, following in the footsteps of their western counterparts, was propagating its virtues. Indian press and TV sympathetically covered the events. Indian trade and industry accorded it 'due respect' as a legitimate expression of 'dissent'. Success of the WSF in Mumbai was further assured by the sympathy of the Congress - erstwhile ruling party of India, currently the ruling party in Mumbai - and the participation of the party of the dalit (lower-caste) bourgeoisie: the Republican Party, coalition partners of Congress in Mumbai. Some major events were chaired by top Indian politicians known for their links with 'lower castes' - VP Singh, the ex-Prime Minister of India famous for triggering caste clashes as a means of strengthening the Indian state, and R. K. Naryanan, the ex-President of India.

But the main organisers in India were the biggest Stalinist parties - the CPI (M) and CPI. They mobilised the nation-wide apparatus of their front organisations. The Mumbai office of the WSF was housed in a stalinist building in 'Leningrad Square'. The youth wings of the stalinist parties provided volunteers to the WSF. Stalinist intellectuals adorned the stages at many events at the WSF.

Also present at WSF Mumbai were a large number of NGOs who provide ideological cover for the state's attack on social wages. And there were the regular international personalities: from Le Monde Diplomatique, leader of the French farmers Jose Bove, Labour MPs Clare Short and Jeremy Corbin, Winnie Mandela et al.

WSF Mumbai took up all the well-known chants of 'alternative worldism'. There were 'events' on fair trade, citizens' democracy, corporate governance and many more. Indian flavour, to meet the needs of Indian Stalinists and the dalit bourgeoisie, was provided by 'Anti-Communalism' and 'dalit emancipation'.

But the main focus of the WSF show at Mumbai was imperialism or, in the words of Maoists, 'Imperialist Globalisation'. Anti-imperialism at the WSF boiled down to Anti-Americanism. With slogans like 'US Quit Iraq', 'Bush Quit Afghanistan', the closing WSF rally joined the chorus of America's imperialist rivals. There was no denunciation of other imperialist gangsters like France, Germany, Russia or China, not to mention that local imperialist gangster, the Indian state.

The WSF was of course the biggest show, but, mirroring the spectacle in Paris in November 2003, where the anarchists held a libertarian alternative to the ESF, two parallel shows were organised during this period by rival Maoist groups.

Held in the Veterinary College Grounds, in front of the WSF Venue, Mumbai Resistance 2004 (MR-2004) was second in size. It was held at the initiation of ILPS, an international umbrella of Maoist Groups and their camp followers from different countries including Turkey, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Britain and Greece. MR considers itself not as the opponent of the WSF but parallel to it. Many of the personalities, specially the Indian ones, e.g. Arunditi Roy, Nandita Das, Vandana Shiva and others spoke both from WSF and MR platforms.

The central theme of MR-2004 was the same as that of the WSF. They too thundered against American Imperialism, no doubt with more vehemence. Again there was no discussion of the imperialist appetites of America's rivals, least of all those of the Indian bourgeoisie. All the Maoist rhetoric only provided radical cover to the anti-Americanism of the WSF.

A third, smaller 'Convention Against Imperialist Globalisation', lasting three days, was held a short distance away from the venues of WSF and MR. It was organised by another of the many Maoist Groups (New Democracy). Apart from other obscure differences between MR and this third convention, it was purely local with a solitary German soul providing the international touch. The ICC's intervention: defending internationalism

The ICC intervened in all these three parallel events. Like the ICC intervention at the ESF in Paris in November, our objective was not to intervene in the well-managed conferences. Rather ICC members and sympathisers from different parts of India intervened through leaflets and sales of our publications (almost five hundred publications were sold). Also, during our interventions we carried on hundreds of discussions around the events.

Some of the questions that came up repeatedly during these discussions were:

  • the idea of fair trade, globalisation and anti-globalisation;
  • which other world is possible;
  • is America the only imperialist power;
  • the nature of the Maoist 'alternatives'.

We insisted that there can be nothing fair about trade, free or protected. It has always been and always will be tilted in favour of the more powerful capitalists or capitalist states. Also, the ICC pointed out that the global character of capitalism is not a new thing. Capitalism has been pushing to become a global system since its inceptions and by the end of the 19th century it had already incorporated the entire planet. While writing the Communist Manifesto in 1848, Marx and Engels already brought out the international nature of the capitalist system. They insisted that the proletarian revolution destroying capitalism can only be a world revolution. Today, in the period of capitalist decadence and decomposition, it is not for the proletariat to defend national particularities against the global nature of the capitalist system. Rather, its task is to destroy this system on a planetary scale, along with its framework of nation states, and to replace it with a worldwide communist community. All talk of fair trade or anti-globalisation and 'another world is possible', without a communist perspective, is a reformist myth aiming to arrest the development of consciousness within the working class.

On imperialism, we underlined that it is not a characteristic of this or that nation, this or that faction of the bourgeoisie. Today, capitalism exists as imperialism with the result that all nations are imperialist. All nations, big or small, are driven by the same imperialist appetites - only their capacity to satisfy these is different. The British ruling class seemingly acting as a poodle to US, or the US bourgeoisie kicking the ass of nations like France, Germany, Russia, China or for that matter Pakistan, Iraq or India, does not make these countries non-imperialist. In a world governed by the law of the underworld, these other countries are only lesser gangsters who have to pursue their imperialist appetites within the limits violently imposed by the top dog, the US bourgeoisie. It is not the task of the working class to play the game of lesser imperialisms against the US, as is being done by WSF, MR and others.

The Maoist 'alternatives' are the opposite of what proletarian politics has always stood for: internationalism. At the apogee of capitalism, in 1871, when in their view German nationalism was still progressive, Marx and Engels took an internationalist position in the Franco-Prussian War. German Socialists went to jail for refusing to endorse national defence. During the First World War, communists defended the slogan 'turn the imperialist war into a civil war'. Lenin above all waged a bitter and ruthless struggle against the patriotic treason of Kautsky et al. Unlike marxists, who have always made internationalism the cornerstone of their politics, Maoists and Stalinists proclaim their patriotism from the rooftops. This is quite in keeping with their class nature - they are the perfect defenders of the personification of national capital, the nation state. The theory of 'India Mortgaged' (or for that matter the Turkey, Iran, Syria or South Africa 'mortgaged' of respective Maoists) ties the working class to the yoke of national capital.

Maoism tells the working class of the 'third world' countries - don't fight for the destruction of the capitalist system and its national apparatus. Instead die for your nation state - as it has been 'mortgaged'. Against all this we insisted that the task of the working class everywhere is to fight for the destruction of capitalism in all countries and work for the setting up of a classless, moneyless society based on the elimination of nation states.

Am, 31/01/04.