AS we gather for the WSF in Nairobi, we need to look at where the global anti-capitalist movement is going. To do so, we need to look at the experiences of some countries.
Brazil: A mass movement sees in Lula of the Workers Party (PT). His first reforms ended workers social pensions. Yet when in opposition PT opposed pension reform. Heloisa Helen (a PT senator) opposed the scrapping of pensions and was expelled. Hundreds of PT activists resigned from PT in protest and formed the Party of Socialism and Liberty (PSOL). 2 years later a corruption scandal involving leading PT members saw thousands more PT activists and MPs defect to PSOL. Helen stood for President last year (2006). While she lost the first round of voting, she gained 12% of the vote and forced run-off elections. Lula continues with neo-liberal attacks.
Argentina: An economic collapse in 2001 led to a mass uprising in December. Ordinary people took over the streets of the capital Buenos Aires. In 14 days they forced out 4 Presidents. Popular assemblies were formed to help people survive the crisis – they focused on food distribution and what resources could be forced from the state. The level of organization made many on the left believe there was no need for
political organisation. Once stability had been reestablished, the popular assemblies ceased existing. Political bureaucrats who ran the 2 main trade union federations endorsed the 5th president after a month of uprising. Using state resources they gave unemployment benefits to weaken the movement. Today the centre-left president Nestor Kuchner maintains the neo-liberal policies of his predecessors.
Mexico: After the fraudulent Presidential elections in July last year, a province in Mexico came near to a state of insurrection. Teachers in a union branch went on strike for wage rises, new text-books and classrooms. The strike spread. Mass demos of 800,000 took place. The provincial governor responded with teargas. Demonstrators responded by blocking roads and occupying shopping centres. The state responded by hinting that the military may be called in. The losing opposition candidate eventually asks the protesters to call off their action saying that alternative action is being planned. To date nothing has happened.
Bolivia: In October 2003 came news that the government was to privatise newly discovered reserves of gas. Sporadic demos against this decision erupted into mass strikes and demos demanding the
nationalisation of the gas to alleviate poverty. President Lozada fled leading to an uneasy stability. After social peace appeared to set in, Lozada’s deputy, Mesa, continued with the programme and neo-liberalism. The law that was drawn up to privatise the gas reserves ignited the June 2005 rebellion that saw dynamite thrown at police by strikers. The country was shut down, roads were closed, the government was sacked. Morales secretly intervened by engaging in negotiations to form an interim government. The movement suddenly ended. Strikers returned to work, demos were called off. The movement paralysed the corridors of power but (1) posed no alternative and (2) failed to plan and organise to feed its own supporters. After 3 weeks of struggle and food shortages, people were tired.
Venezuela: The mirror of mass struggles globally. The struggle there has led to a split in the main trade union federation. There are those who see the government of Chaves as the answer. Then there are those who see the ordinary people them selves as the answer - and who argue that Chaves has not lead people to taking over factories, mines and shops.
The Way Forward
There are 2 different components to the struggle of the left. The one is centred around intellectuals and middle class layers (including some army officers) who identify with populist movements in townships and slums. They see nationalist or state capitalist development as the way forward. But it leads them to look at the popular movement as something they should dominate. The other is a popular insurgency against neoliberal policies on workers, peasants, urban poor and indigenous peoples.
Neither route of nationalism or state capitalism is the answer. Regimes from Chile to pre-1994 South Africa, Britain, Cambodia and Russia have tried them. It was only the members of the classes that dominated society or those who led movements that benefitted. The struggle for a new society must be in the hands of ordinary people.
by Rosa Zulu