WORLD SOCIAL FORUM COMES TO AFRICA
By Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem
Special to Global Wire
The World Social Forum (WSF) is holding its Seventh Session in
Nairobi, for the first time in Africa, 20-25 January 2007.
This is a global Movement against globalization and the triumphalist
neo-liberalism that underpins it. For any African who is casually
aware of the painful history of this continent in relation to the
rest of the world globalization should not be a new term. Slavery was
global and so was colonialism. And Imperialism has always been global.
So why are we using globalization today as if it was discovered a few
years ago? It is used as if it all has to do with technology,
internet, freer movement of goods, services, people, skills,
knowledge, etc. It is all these and more. It has both an ideological,
political and class context. Technology is not neutral.
What is distinct about globalization today? One, it is happening in
the context of a UNIPOLAR world that is dominated by an illiterate
lone superpower: USA. Two, it asserts an end of ideology with another
ideology: There Is No Alternative (TINA) thereby turning
neoliberalism, into a gospel truth, from which there can not be
Democratization, progress and survival of humanity, in this
discourse, become linked or even interchangeable with western
political structures, capitalism and Western culture. Consequently
the destiny of the world is to become Westernized and even more
brazenly become Americanized!
If Westernization produced prosperity for all the peoples of the
world and respect the dignity of all human beings there may not be
much opposition to it and its hegemony. But slavery, colonialism,
genocide, mass violence, expropriation of majority by the minority,
destruction of cultures and peoples and many more atrocities in the
pursuit of raw materials, profits and markets are the heritage and
contemporary expression of this ideology. Hence it has always
provoked resistance from its victims and other peoples who desire
social justice and a better humanity.
The WSF movement has evolved from the late 1990s becoming organized
expression of the peoples of the world at its first meeting in 2001
at Porta Allegro in Brazil. It brings together all kinds of anti-
globalisation forces and social movements struggling against all
kinds of class, racial, ethnic, religious, gender and other kinds of
oppression at all levels of human existence. It is united by the twin
ideology of opposition to the current imperialist anti –people
globalization and the totalitarian ideology of there being no
alternative to Neo liberalism.
Those may be the only two things they agree on because different
groups, organizations and individuals decide where and how they go
about confronting the two evils they identify. To the untutored in
WSF dynamics it may look like an anarchists’ bazaar. But there is a
method to the madness. These are people committed to changing the
world they live in and are prepared to sacrifice for it. They may
sound like lunatics and champions of lost causes but so did many
thought of Mandela who, as a firebrand youth believed they could
overthrow Apartheid and bring about Black Majority rule at a time
when people thought White power was impregnable.
Winston Churchill infamously and loquaciously declared his opposition
to Independence for Non White British Colonies in his rude reaction
to Mahatma Ghandi’s mobilization of ordinary Indians against
colonialism insisting he had not become the Prime Minster of ‘His
Majesty’s government’ to hand over the British Empire ‘to a half-
naked Kaffir’. But it came to pass in his life-time. Not only India,
but also Ceylon (Sri Lanka now), and several Asian and African
Countries became independent before Churchill’s life snuffed out and
they were welcomed to England by the British crown in pomp and
pageantry at Buckingham palace.
History is full of the contributions made possible by people who were
regarded as ‘lunatics’ by their contemporaries and the powers that be
that they challenged but with time many of these ideas and issues
they fought on became common sense.
Many will snigger and even be amused by the clarion call of the
Nairobi WSF: “Another World is Possible”. The cynicism will in part
be due to many people believing that the world as we live it today
has come to stay, that America will always gets its way and the west
will always dominate therefore since you cannot beat them you had
better join them or get lost. But this reading of the world’s history
is so short sighted as it is ahistorical.
Most of the territory we now know as the USA today used to be a
colony of Britain, but now Britain especially under TORY Blair has
become a vassal state of Britain. Yet at the height of British
Imperial grandeur in the 19th and up to the middle of the 20th
century its imperial propagandists use to boast that: ‘The sun never
sets on the British empire’ because the colonies stretched against
Those struggling against British Colonialism used to retort that the
reason the sun never sets on the British Empire was because: God
never trusted the British in the dark! The Empire did collapse. Why
should the American empire be any different? Were not Rome and the
Catholic Church imperial power before? What happened to the Egyptians
and Greek civilizations? From generation to generations, from one
epoch to the other human beings continue to seek alternatives making
change the only permanent condition of humanity.
Empires rise and fall. Just imagine the next fifty years with China,
India, and Africa, Latin America and other previously marginalized
peoples and regions of the world on the rise. The apostles of
neoliberalism want to put an end to our imagination but the
‘strugglists’ assembling in Nairobi from all corners of the world
for the WORLD SOCIAL FORUM (which should really be World Socialist
Forum) just as the beneficiaries of the current unequal and unfair
global power structures gather for their annual vultures’ festival
in Davos, for the World Economic Forum (really WORLD EXCPLOITERS
FORUM) are defiantly reaffirming the truism that Another world ,
without hunger, poverty and greed is possible and desirable. But more
than that they are prepared to work for it.
Karibuni to Nairobi to all of you. A luta continua
* Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem is the Deputy Director, Africa, for the UN
millennium, Campaign. He writes this weekly column in his personal
capacity as a concermed Pan Africanist.