(Globalization and political representation: movements, parties and rethinking democracy)

Pierre Rousset

Report Outline



*Objectives of this third report:

- Reflect on organisational forms in the global justice movement.

- Introduce questions to ponder on the (changing?) role of revolutionary parties.

- To make it easier to situate new (or renewed) questions, some references to our changing conceptions (= the changing outlook of my generation).


- Extremely variable situations according to the countries and currents.

- An initial reflection, not yet very collective.

- Problems with differentiating, in what is "new" between short-term and lasting changes, what is specific to certain countries and what is more general.

- This is NOT a matter of affirming a new orthodoxy. Just of opening up a field of reflection.




* Very uneven movement depending on regions but:

- International from the outset: "Facing the globalisation of capital, globalise resistance".

- More rooted from the outset than 1960s radicalisation.

- Made its voice heard quickly: became an effective political factor from Seattle onward.

- Capacity to keep on despite repression (Göteborg, Genoa) and attempts to co-opt it, political shocks (11 September 2001), "complex" wars (Afghanistan).

- Capacity to expand (greatly!) and radicalise.

- Some very original features.

=> New "constituent historical experience" making it possible to undertake "new thinking" (revolutionary subject, see first report...), but in very different forms from the 1960s (i.e. question of breaking with reform/revolution breach).

=> Resuming strategic reflection "suspended" in the 1990s due to a shortage of "raw materials".


*Question asked here: How does this operate?

=> Combine description and reflection.


A. Forums and assemblies

A controversial question. A key to understanding.


= The Social Forum as a "space for convergence among free initiatives" on the basis of a Charter with a real political basis. Does not take stands (how my judgement in this respect has changed). A meeting place for activist networks (campaigns on issues...) and how they were broadened through the Forum. The Women's Assembly (second European Social Forum). The specific role of the Assembly of social movements and activists (activist agenda, synthesis of proposals, major meetings in common).

=> A dialectics between the "event" and the "process" that operates remarkably well: such as 15 February 2003!


B. Spontaneity and direction

* A hothouse of multiple and free activities = dynamic role of hundreds of participating organisations.

* A thought-out process: each stage with its own role to play, weaknesses to correct, light cast on "invisible" aspects, integration of new regions, co-ordination of calendar... = role of a network of diverse organisations "linking up" permanently.


At the outset:

= On the international level: meetings during usual mobilisations.

= In Brazil: Committee of 8.

= International Council of WSF.



Brazilian model cannot be generalised (and probably not maintained indefinitely).

= Very relative representativity of IC of the WSF.

=> Role of preparatory Assemblies and "open" directional structures (Europe, India).

=> Neither a traditional coalition or front nor a representation through pyramidical democratic delegation such as a "central strike committee". The term in use, "network" also seems inaccurate: it is much more consistent (number and variety of organisations taking part).

All organisations are not equal. Decisions depend on an agreement among major organisations. But corrective mechanisms have been adopted (Solidarity Funds...) and the number of orgs actively involved in the process is unprecedented.

=> Consensus process (not unanimity). Do what we can do together, then let each do as they please... Limits (difficulty with in-depth debate) and strength (able to go on offensive even in defensive period).


Does not eliminate other ways of functioning (coalitions and fronts, democratic delegation and representatives pyramid, networks of campaigns...).

=> But responds to a lasting question: how to bring together a very large number of organisaitons, of very different natures. And yet this question is "lasting" (how societies and consciences change, changing relationship between action in the workplace and local community, multiplication of arenas of struggle, globalised capitalism and general commodification offensive...).


C. A few problems

= Gigantism and star-system. Debate on rhythms and forms. Ensure visibility of the "invisible". Roots in society.


= Possible role of international co-ordination of social movements and problems with this (Brazil, France).


= Building the revolutionary movement in relation to the global justice movement (where this is meaningful...). Common field of responsibility and action (EACL?)





= The question of movement/party relations in the global justice movement.

= Diversity of traditions

- Party/ trade union relations: the French, Indian and British "models".

- "Outlook" on Party in France and Philippines.


A. Inevitably dated concepts


= A history of the concept of the party.

= Our "Leninism" from the 1970s. The vanguard party. A party intervening in ALL ASPECTS of society. Revolutionary crisis and ability to take action.

= Enrichment of strategic outlooks. A concrete and changing strategy.


B. Developments: revolutionary pluralism as driving force


= One class, one party, one State?

= Workers' parties, a (truly) revolutionary party?

= Need to "simplify" revolutionary field?

= A simple scale of "consciousness": reformist > centrist > (true) revolutionary? The trials of the "centrist" category.


=> Pluralism is not a necessary, short-term evil, but the reflection of essential realities (complexity of societies and of militant experience, condition of democratic life).


C. Developments: driving force behind movement / party relations

= The vanguard party as "keystone" and single arena for programmatic conceptualisation?

= Real experiences (feminist, ecological thought, reflection on changes in labour process, peasant question...).

= Building more egalitarian relationships.

= Thoughts on diversity among parties (diversity in strategic choices) as a contribution to movement unity.


D. Developments: strategic horizons

= Particulars of current situation (strategic horizon postponed).

=> Question marks on parties (specific form and role...) of tomorrow.

= Need for renewed revolutionary party or parties.

<= Exhaustion of reformism.

<= Avoid reducing politics to electoral process.

<= Go beyond the demoralising face-offs between movements and governing parties (i.e. French SP, the "political channel" for global justice movement ?).

<= Resume strategic debate (after Lula experience!).

<= Transmit experience and accumulate forces able to meet various strategic configurations of tomorrow...


=> Not only changing of generational guard, but transitional period of maturations. Maturation in process of action!

Ability to endure and to change.