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Bamako Appeal: A Good Beginning

A Good Beginning On the eve of the World Social Forum (WSF) in Mali this year, but independent of the forum itself, a group of around 80 political activists and intellectuals met on January18-19 under the auspices of the Third World Forum, the World Forum for Alternatives, and the Forum for Another Mali. The leading organiser of this pre-WSF meeting, Samir Amin, called it a

BAMAKO APPEAL

A Good Beginning

O
n the eve of the World Social Forum (WSF) in Mali this year, but independent of the forum itself, a group of around 80 political activists and intellectuals met on January18-19 under the auspices of the Third World Forum, the World Forum for Alternatives, and the Forum for Another Mali. The leading organiser of this pre-WSF meeting, Samir Amin, called it a “Peoples’ Bandung Conference”, recalling the recent 50th anniversary of the Afro-Asian conference at Bandung in Indonesia in 1955. The result of this “Peoples’ Bandung Conference” was a document called the Bamako Appeal, which opposes neoliberalism, US military domination of the planet and, besides espousing general principles, proposes concrete and coordinated actions worldwide. Later, at the Polycentric World Social Forum at Caracas during January 24-29, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez supported the appeal, which was then adopted by an assembly of social movements. The appeal calls for the organisation of a peoples’ movement worldwide – a global internationalism – as an initial step in constructing a socialism of the 21st century.

Economic and Political Weekly May 6, 2006

There is quite a gamut of proposals for action in the appeal

– for a “multipolar world founded on peace, law and negotiation”, for a “democratic management of the planet’s natural resources”, for “a better future for peasant farmers”, to build a workers’ united front, for “a democratisation of societies as a necessary step to full human development”, for the eradication of all forms of oppression, exploitation and alienation of women, and “the institutionalisation of a multipolar international order”. The strengths of the appeal are particularly in the proposals to build a workers’ united front and democratisation of societies as a necessary step in constructing a socialism of the 21st century.

While it is necessary to strengthen labour organisations at the national level by opening them up to workers in the informal sector that form the majority of the working class, there is also the need for trade unions and the new social movements to develop horizontal relations of mutual respect and to collaborate with each other. The trade unions should not try to subordinate the new social movements to their structures of authority or to the political parties they may be affiliated to.

Of course, world capitalism cannot be confronted at the national level alone; democracy needs to be globalised and the working class needs to reorganise at the global level. The latter should not be conceived in terms of a hierarchical, pyramidal structure, but as a network of horizontally linked organisations that will be able to organise coordinated actions in confronting world capitalism. Transnational trade union structures need to be constituted to effectively confront transnational employers by organising common actions beyond national boundaries. These corporations are quite vulnerable to disruption of their global commodity chains. Ways need to be found to prevent relocation of value adding activity, the threat of which drives the workers of various countries into competition with each other in a race to the bottom.

The Bamako Appeal recognises the dialectic between political and social democracy. The former is incomplete “if inequalities, exploitation and social injustice persist”, while the latter cannot justify “the absence of freedom and disrespect of basic rights”. Thus, the appeal is sensitive to civil liberties. But, it particularly stresses “the collective rights of the people to struggle against oppression and violence imposed on them”. The struggle for democracy must take place at various levels – at the enterprise, local, national (designated “the strategic”) and regional levels, and also worldwide.

Given that the appeal was to be first addressed to the WSF and the assembly of social movements, it would have been appropriate to debunk notions of civil society as the realm of freedom and voluntary action, and its antithesis, the leviathan state, as intrinsically coercive. After all, relations of exploitation, domination and oppression constitute the very essence of civil society and domination/oppression by the state is itself rooted in those very social relations of civil society. Also, for the foundation-financed NGOs that occupy very many of the spaces of the WSF, the various multiple identities (gender, sexual orientation, caste, race, class, ethnicity, etc) are separate but equal; they thereby deny the importance of class. Democracy and the WSF then becomes, partly at least, a kind of marketspace where the various identities meet and compete. What you get is plurality instead of genuine difference. The Bamako Appeal is, however, a good beginning; it needs to be widely read, discussed, critiqued and improved upon.

EPW

Economic and Political Weekly May 6, 2006

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