And Is It True? It Is Not True! And If It Were It Wouldn’t Do! (I: Ranting Pipsqueaks)

This is going to be a rather long one, reminiscent of the “Jeremiad” written by Jeremy Cronin before he became a sleazy fat-cat minister, except different because based on facts and containing some logic. It’s all about how, slowly, people are starting to figure out how stuffed-up we are on the global Left, and in the grand traditions of the global Left, are casting about for some leftists to kick in the pants by way of blaming them for the problem we have created.
It all started when the Creator wandered into a room with a functioning computer and logged onto the Internet. Eventually the Counterpunch website flashed across the screen. The Creator is not crazy about Alexander Cockburn’s smugness and global warming denialism, but still Counterpunch is better than nothing, and there on the screen appeared an article about the World Social Forum by a person named Marga Tojo Gonzales from Brazil.
Now, again the WSF is not something which the Creator views with favour. The idea of a global forum where people opposed to imperialism can meet, discuss issues, and energise each other is not so bad, but what’s wrong with the Internet? Why do we have to burn up air-miles on such junkets? We can’t all get to fuck Arundhati Roy (although Judge Desai, not to be confused with Ashwin, is apparently quite eager to act as a substitute). Is it not possible that this is simply a way of justifying spending money on private entertainment instead of political activism? Say yes, and let’s move on, because this is what the interview is subtly hinting at.
Of course the problem is that both people being interviewed are members of the International Council of the WSF (heilige scheiss, does it also have a Secretariat and a Planning Commission and do they all have personal assistants?). Bonfond claims that the WST has “played a positive part in the construction of a power relationship more favourable to the exploited and oppressed”. Jeez, you coulda fooled me. How has that power relationship changed in the last ten years in favour of those with boots in their necks? Get specific, maroons.
Toussaint says the WSF has succeeded in “delegitimizing neoliberalism”. That’s balls, of course. For most of us, neoliberalism never had legitimacy. If there was something we hated about politics, on investigation it was almost invariably one of the tentacles of neoliberalism. So that’s like claiming that the WSF has succeeded in keeping the moon in the sky. However, neoliberalism is now stronger than ever before; the processes of neoliberalism are, across most of the world, more intrusive and more sustained. That’s not as true in Latin America as elsewhere, but it’s still a reality. Toussaint then says that the WSF has been “strengthening . . . international networks”. And . . . what precisely have those networks done? Where are their victories over the enemy? Do all of them exist outside the imagination of their creators? The capacity to mobilise a thousand puppeteers on the streets of Munich does not negate the neoliberalism of the German government or the EU administration.
Bonfond does get real. He admits that the WSF has been glove-puppeted by big NGOs, that many delegates treat the WSF as a junket, and that delegates do not collaborate, but break up into hundreds of mutually competing organisations, while the WSF is heavily funded by big business. Gaaah! If all this is true — and why should he lie? — the Creator’s view of the WSF is altogether too positive.
However, Bonfond explains. The problem lies . . . with the Lula government in Brazil, and the Prodi government in Italy! Because these governments have not been socialist enough, the WSF has failed! (The Prodi government was eventually driven from office by an electorate impatient with its lack of radicalism, who then wisely instead voted in Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, but Bonfond doesn’t mention this for some mysterious reason.)
Bonfond nevertheless claims that the struggle against the Free Trade Area of the Americas was partly a WSF victory. Maybe, but you have to ask how much of a part. The FTAA negotiations were undertaken by governments like Lula’s, and the WSF opposes governments like Lula’s. But he admits that “on an international level the movement has been unable to achieve any victory [which] has resulted in many who were expecting prompt tangible results feeling discouraged”. Yeah, right. Total failure has a way of doing that — but only if there’s something wrong with the organisation. Can it be that the problems which Bonfond identified are contributing to this?
Toussaint admits that the WSF is completely disunited and has no agenda or goal. It is not “an instrument of mobilization”, which is fair enough — is it practical to have such an organisation? He insists that it should be, and therefore that such an organisation needs to be constructed, such as Hugo Chavez’ call for a Fifth International. Given that the Third and Fourth Internationals failed in every imaginable respect, having a Fifth should at least be thought through. Would an international front of disparate quasi-leftist organisations have any coherent meaning? Toussaint thinks so, but given that he insists that it would not entail any obligations on the parts of its members (since otherwise, given the way that all the organisations within the WSF seem to hate and compete with each other, it would not be set up) he is probably mistaken in thinking that it would be any different from the WSF.
There is, says Bonford, a solid campaign against foreign military bases in Latin America (of course this means U.S. bases). Has this led to the closure of any U.S. bases or the refusal of basing rights? Apparently not — at least, he mentions none. Simply beginning a campaign (especially a single-issue campaign which is not automatically left-wing; even though it has the potential to be anti-imperialist, the Latin American military is so saturated with U.S. ideology that the U.S. hardly needs bases there apart from prestige) is not an achievement. As to a call for mobilization around climate change, duh!
Toussaint defines Brazil as a peripheral imperialist power, by which he means that it is “able to decide on a political course without asking for Washington’s consent”. This, of course, makes Allende’s Chile a peripheral imperialist power. He adds that Brazil has investments in other countries, which enables it to “influence the political decisions of foreign governments”. Surely the problem here would be whether Brazil abused that power. He cites Paraguay, Bolivia and Ecuador, all of which have evolved left-wing governments without any conspicuous intervention by Brazil. He also claims that Brazil is acquiring a military force capable of intervening abroad, for which evidence he cites the Brazilian involvement in the UN occupation of Haiti. This is obvious tosh; one might as well say that Botswana is capable of intervening abroad because it joined the South African occupation of Lesotho in 1998. Toussaint is scrabbling for evidence to support a preconception rather than working from evidence which he could present.
Toussaint also points out that Brazil has joined with Russia, India and China to contest U.S. economic imperialism, that Brazil’s socio-economic interests are not the U.S.’s interests, and that Brazil enjoys friendly relations with Cuba and Venezuela. These would seem to suggest that Brazil is potentially an ally of countries challenging U.S. imperialism (although, given Brazil’s support for the occupation of Haiti, obviously not an altogether reliable ally). What he thus fails to see is that there is potential for pressing Brazil towards a less imperialist agenda. Meanwhile, Toussaint identifies imperialism with capitalism, in a crude fashion which would have had Lenin rushing to the toilet to be sick. In actuality, Toussaint is trying to equate nationalism with imperialism, and thus destroying all capacity for meaningful analysis by breaking down useful categorisations. To justify this pernicious anti-political practice, he legitimates himself by saying that Patrick Bond agreed with him at the panel discussion, and that Bond had said that South Africa was just as bad, and that Brazil, Russia, India and China are not a “viable alternative” (to what, unspecified — to U.S. imperialism, presumably).
Of course one must not assume that because medium-sized powers are sometimes inclined to challenge U.S. imperialism within their level of capacity, those powers are necessarily forces of unquestionable good. One must examine their behaviour and critique it. This is not what Toussaint is doing here, and also not what Bond is doing.
Bonfond contends that the WSF, being financed (wholly, or just partly?) by transnational corporations, is tainted, but that it “still has a role to play as a place for discussing alternative ways of ensuring authentic human development”. One would have liked to think that after nearly ten years more would have been accomplished than the establishing of an impotent talking-shop. It is worth remembering that this is one of the bosses of the organisation speaking, who is unlikely to be profoundly critical of the body which pays his salary.
Bonfond, however, is more enthusiastic about an “Assembly of Social Movements”, such is supposed “to fight capitalism in its neo-liberal, imperialist and military phase”. One of the Movements here is ATTAC, which is supported by Susan George who is not a complete idiot, so perhaps not all the Movements are Trotskyite wallies. Nevertheless, the inclination seems clear. Bonfond talks about how this will “examine the new international conjuncture”, discuss “the multidimensional nature of the systemic crisis” and “dynamize mobilization for the next World Social Forum”. In other words, it is a talking-shop whose goal is to make its voice louder in another larger talking-shop.
Please notice; these two buffoons, with their bombastic, obfuscatory jargon which serves well to blind them to their own impotence, are the best that the anti-globalisation movement has to offer. They represent the official left-wing hope of humankind, the force that has lost us all our international battles on every stage since 1999.
The question which we must ask is, what has gone wrong? Why is the movement led by fools? Why has the movement failed to build itself as a movement? Why has all the talking led to no meaningful or effectual action? Is it that the very idea of an International has become pointless, or is it simply that it is being done wrongly, and by the wrong people?

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