Let’s Try Again!

This year we commemorate the twentieth anniversary of two crucial landmarks of the old, and now non-existent, anti-globalisation or alternative globalisation movement, which both took place in 2001: the first World Social Forum in Porto Alegre (Brazil) in January, and the “battle of Genoa” in July.

A big number of publications have dealt with this important global political and cultural phenomenon, how it was created, what it achieved, where it failed, and mainly for what reasons it finally came to an end. These issues were also discussed in a roundtable organised in 2019 by the transform! europe Yearbook editorial board on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the “battle of Seattle”.

Can a continental and global connection of social movements be rebuilt? There is no easy answer to this question. However, what I would like to say at the outset is that this is more difficult today than it was twenty years ago, and not only because of the defeats and the delusions we have suffered in the meantime.

Then, the connection of movements was based on the need to fight together mainly against neoliberalism, our major common enemy, and less against nationalism, which was also opposing globalisation. Now, due to the failure of neoliberalism to keep its promises, but also because of the recent outburst of the Covid pandemic, nationalism has become much more dangerous, with its discourse being effectively shared even by mainstream political forces. Consequently, the common fight against it is equally imperative as that against the unjust global system.

The first victims of this development are refugees and immigrants who are kept out of the borders of “paradise” through the erection of fences and/or brutal pushbacks, or are actually imprisoned in closed camps under inhumane and extremely unhealthy conditions, but also ethnic minorities within several countries.

I am skeptical regarding the possibility of establishing a comprehensive organisational structure of the type we had in the past, at least at this stage. History does not repeat itself, and that means that once again we must proceed cautiously by trial and error.

However, what I consider feasible is encouraging the creation of decentralized global connections and coordination between movements along thematic issues. A significant example of this possibility is the mobilisations, two years ago, of young people in various countries against climate change. Unfortunately, this internationally nascent transnational movement suffered a setback due to the pandemic, but hopefully it will soon make a dynamic comeback.

Connections can also be established or/and be reactivated and extended among the already existing strong national feminist movements, anti-racist movements, movements for the support of refugees and immigrants, movements against the extraction of fossil fuels, etc.

But in the present conjuncture the most urgent connection is that among initiatives in the healthcare sectors of various countries. The main demands that can unite and gradually transform them into a global movement are the abolition of vaccine patents and the opposition to the privatisation of public health systems. Global connections in the health sector can also play a crucial role in the fight against the dangerous and sometimes violent populist anti-vaccination movements.

I share the view that the only solution to the present global impasse is the gradual transcendence of the capitalist system towards an eco-socialist society. Therefore it is necessary but not sufficient that coalitions of radical left political forces gain power mainly in some big countries. But at the same time, we know that this cannot happen and be sustainable without the support of social movements in the respective countries and all over the world.

In that sense, an effort to create a new alter-globalisation movement is more than welcome. This should be the task of a younger generation of activists who can of course count on the support of the old guard. What is needed is empathy, patience, and tenacity.