A militant platform

Published : Feb 13, 2004 00:00 IST

A cross-section of the participants of Mumbai Resistance-2004. -

A cross-section of the participants of Mumbai Resistance-2004. -

Mumbai Resistance-2004, a platform of over 310 political movements organised parallel to the WSF, claims that the latter cannot provide a proper focus and orientation to the struggles against imperialist globalisation and war.

THE icons are the same - Marx, Mao, Lenin and Che Guevara. The slogans are the same - "American imperialism - Down, Down". Yet there is no convergence between the World Social Forum and the Mumbai Resistance (MR)-2004. It is not just the busy Western Express highway in Mumbai's northern suburb of Goregaon that keeps the two apart. Nor the fact that the WSF had more than one lakh participants on 40 acres (16 hectares) as opposed to the MR's 5,000 on four acres. Essential differences that kept the two apart were the source of funding for the respective gatherings and the strategy and tactics necessary to achieve change.

While both believed in targeting imperialism and globalisation and strengthening people's movements, the WSF chose to distance itself from militant action. MR, on the other hand, espoused armed struggle. Shivsunder, an organising committee member of MR, criticised the WSF saying that it was "structured in such a way that the struggle cannot be taken forward". Feroze Miththiborwala, an MR organising committee member, summed up the difference: "While MR was a process, WSF was an event." There was also a difference in mood between the WSF and MR. The former had the atmosphere of a carnival, but had an extensive and varied programme of seminars and workshops, numbering 1,180. MR conducted its programmes under a large tent over three days with a programme schedule of 12 focussed topics. Differences between the two also showed up in the profile of the participants. The majority of MR participants were peasant farmers and field-based activists. The disproportionately high number of police personnel at the MR venue bore testimony to this. WSF had a clearly different set of people. In fact, the recently released "Profile of Participants" shows that WSF participants tend to be young, university-educated, anti-imperialist and independent of political parties. The poor, like slum-dwellers, peasant farmers or indigenous people, are not represented, alleged Brazilian sociologist Candido Grzybowski, a member of the WSF International Council and one of the main organisers of the meetings in Porto Alegre.

MR is a coalition of forces belonging to 310 political movements and organisations that believe that the WSF cannot provide a proper focus and orientation to the ongoing struggles against imperialist globalisation and war. "The structure, politics and orientation of the WSF are vague," says Darshan Pal, an MR organising committee member. "What does `Another world is possible mean'? They are just humanising the face of imperialism. It is disillusioning the workers and the people. They lack a clear vision and have no plans. They are defusing the struggle against imperialist globalisation."

Darshan Pal said that MR, on the other hand, was committed to "working for a self-reliant socialist world" regardless of the type of socialism. "We have Lohiaites, Marxists, Leninists, Maoists and Sarvodaya workers over here." In the move towards a "socialist order", MR debated questions like: How to identify the crucial issues and develop the force of the peoples' movements into a powerful challenge to the forces of imperialist globalisation and war? How to stand up to those who crush the sovereignty of nations, who idealise and support a market-centred rather than people-centred pattern of development? How to identify correctly the enemy and distinguish real friends from those who only posture as being against globalisation?

A COMMON misconception is that MR is a breakaway faction of the WSF. Many organisations, which are also opposed to globalisation, have been critical of the WSF movement since it began in 2001. However, this is the first time that some of the organisations have come together on a common platform to project their perspective. MR was actually conceived at the International Camp, Thessaloniki Resistance 2003, held in Greece in June that year. It took a concrete form when the International Coordinating Group of the International League of Peoples' Struggles (ILPS), a coalition of over 100 people's organisations from various parts of the world, resolved at its meeting in the Netherlands in July 2003 to organise an event at the same time as the WSF.

While MR finds no fault with the underlying objectives of the WSF, it attempts to create its own platform with the belief that "the battle against globalisation will be a long and protracted one and will be fought on many fronts and in many forms". In that respect, it stands for and supports all militant mobilisations. Upholding its right to militancy and questioning the WSF's rejection of it, Shivsunder said: "When imperialism is becoming aggressive how can the resistance be passive?" An MR press statement noted: "MR believes that the WSF body has many inherent weaknesses and limitations since it is dominated by imperialist-funded NGOs and political organisations with close links to the imperialist world. This is evident in the financial and other backing being provided by some imperialist governments like France and Germany and international funding agencies like Oxfam and Ford Foundation to the WSF and its regional offshoots; the participation of representatives of political organisations that have been implementing liberalisation and privatisation in regions where they are in power; the failure to emphasise the importance of people's movements and the exclusion of militant movements from the WSF. MR also believes that the structure and methodology of the WSF platform preclude any real debate and discussion on serious practical questions. MR aims not only to voice critiques of the WSF, but also to discuss concrete measures for strengthening people's struggles everywhere."

MR activists pointed out that the invitation of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh to the WSF was inconsistent with its declared objectives. Digvijay Singh spoke on the contemporary relevance of Gandhian thought, the relevance of the gram sabha and the importance of people's participation. The irony was not lost on the audience who expressed its outrage. A spontaneous demonstration of Adivasis and anti-dam activists raised slogans against the former Chief Minister. Chittaroopa Palit, a Narmada Bachao Andolan activist, asked how Digvijay Singh's thinking fitted in with his governance and the lack of people's participation in it.

MR activists also alleged that the WSF offered no real alternatives. "Most of the debate remains an intellectual exercise. There are no real conclusions, no resolutions," said Shivsunder. MR concluded with the adopting of a People's Declaration, which resolved to "put up a formidable fight alongside the people of Iraq till all the U.S. and other troops are withdrawn from Iraq and the U.S. and other imperialists' control over Iraq's natural resources is handed over to the people of Iraq". The declaration pledged to fight imperialist globalisation and war to the end. It also said it would fight for the abrogation of all the loans given to the Third World by the imperialists and their agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. A call was given to observe March 20, the first anniversary of the U.S.-U.K. invasion of Iraq, as Global Day of Action.

In keeping with its philosophy of struggle being the only way to self-reliance, MR was funded by the participant organisations, with expenses totalling around Rs.20 lakhs. "We'll collect all this from the people. We've already collected about Rs.3 lakhs from registrations, Rs.1,50,000 from Punjab organisations and Rs.25,000 from Delhi organisations," Darshan Pal told Frontline.

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