The dangers and opportunities of the global crisis

9 February 2009 by Gustave Massiah

The alter-globalist movement has asserted itself as an anti-systemic movement that can provide a brighter future than the neoliberal phase of capitalist globalisation. The beginning of the global crisis is opening up new perspectives and giving it special responsibilities [1.].

The alter-globalist movement

The alter-globalist movement, in its various significations, is a bearer of new hope born from saying no to destiny; this is the meaning of the assertion “another world is possible”. We are not living “The End of History” or “The Shock of Civilisations”. The strategy of the alter-globalist movement is structured around the convergence of social and citizen movements that emphasise solidarity, freedoms, and peace. Within the context of the WSF, they compare their struggles, their practices, their reflections and their proposals. They also build a new political culture based on diversity, self-managed activities, mutualisation and “horizontality” in preference to hierarchy.

Through the forums, a strategic orientation has come out: that of access to fundamental rights for all. It’s the building of an alternative to the dominant way of thinking and to adjusting each society to the global market via regulation by the global capital market. It’s imposed upon us as an obvious fact that the only acceptable way to organise a society is by market regulation. In contrast, we can put forward the proposal to organise societies and the world based on access to fundamental rights for all. This common orientation gives the convergence of movements its meaning and results in a new culture of transformation that can be seen in the evolution of each of the movements.

The discussions underway in the movement highlight the strategic question. This latter brings up the question of power, which takes us back to the discussion on the state and ties up with that of parties, as well as the question of the model of social transformation and the nature of development.

The alter-globalist movement is not limited to the Social Forums, but the process of the forums has a special role within it. The alter-globalist movement is constantly expanding and becoming deeper. Along with geographical, social and theme-based expansion, it has experienced considerable increase in power in less than 10 years. For all that, it has not won, even though quite a few aspects of the crisis validate many of its analyses and justify its call to resistances. The alter-globalist movement is a historic movement that falls within the long term. It extends and renews the three previous historic movements: the historic movement of decolonisation (and from this point of view, alter-globalism has deeply modified North-South representations to the advantage of a common global project), the historic movement of working-class struggles (and from this point of view, the transformation towards a global social and citizen movement has been undertaken) and the movement of the struggles for democracy starting from the 1960s-70s (and from this point of view, the renewal of the democratic necessity after the implosion of sovietism in 1989 and the regressions brought about by law-and-order ideologies). Decolonisation, social struggles, democratic necessity and freedoms represent the historic reference culture of the alter-globalist movement.

The Belém World Social Forum (WSF) opens up a new cycle of the alter-globalist movement. The WSF will be held in Amazonia, at the heart of the limits of the worldwide ecosystem and will have to pose the major question regarding the contradictions between the ecological crisis and the social crisis. It will be marked by the new social and citizen movement in Latin America: the alliance of indigenous peoples, women, workers, peasants and landless, and the social and solidarity economy. This civic movement has built new relationships between the social and political aspects that have led to new regimes and that have renewed understanding of the democratic necessity. It has reoriented the continent’s evolution, thereby showing the importance of major regions in globalisation and faced with the crisis of hegemony by the United States. The alter-globalist movement will also have to respond to the new global situation stemming from the open crisis of the neoliberal phase of capitalist globalisation.

The crisis of globalisation

The alter-globalist movement is faced with the crisis of globalisation, which can be characterised as a crisis of capitalist globalisation in its neoliberal phase. This crisis is not a surprise for the movement; it was foreseen and announced long ago. Several analyses gave the hypothesis of an open crisis of globalisation. Now we’re in it! This is a structural crisis: economic and social, ecological, geopolitical, political and ideological. The current sequence of financial, monetary, real-estate, food and economic crises are many examples of it.

Three major questions determine the evolution of the situation at the global level and mark the various levels of social transformation (global, by major region, national and local). The dominant system is confronted with a triple crisis: the global ecological crisis has become patently obvious; the crisis of neoliberalism; and the geopolitical crisis, along with the end of the hegemony of United States. The crisis of the hegemony of the United States is fast becoming deeper. The evolution of the major regions is becoming differentiated, all the more so because the responses of each region to the crisis of American hegemony are different. The fight against the alleged war of civilisations and the very real, endless war represent one of the priorities of the alter-globalist movement.

The neoliberal phase seems to be on its last legs. The new financial crisis is especially serious. It’s not the first financial crisis of this period (Mexico, Brazil, India, Argentina, etc), and it alone does not adequately characterise how neoliberalism is running out of steam. The breakdown of the various crises is more remarkable. The monetary crisis increases the uncertainties regarding currency readjustment. The real-estate crisis in the United States is revealing the role that over-indebtedness, and its limits, play as a motor of growth. The energy crisis and the climate crisis are revealing the limits of the worldwide ecosystem. The exceptionally serious food crisis can put into question more fundamental balances. The deepening of inequalities and discriminations, in each society and between countries, is reaching a critical level and is having repercussions on the intensification of conflicts and wars and on the crisis of values. The institutions responsible for regulating the international economic system (IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.
, World Bank World Bank
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

World Trade Organisation
The WTO, founded on 1st January 1995, replaced the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). The main innovation is that the WTO enjoys the status of an international organization. Its role is to ensure that no member States adopt any kind of protectionism whatsoever, in order to accelerate the liberalization global trading and to facilitate the strategies of the multinationals. It has an international court (the Dispute Settlement Body) which judges any alleged violations of its founding text drawn up in Marrakesh.

) no longer have legitimacy.

The G8 G8 Group composed of the most powerful countries of the planet: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the USA, with Russia a full member since June 2002. Their heads of state meet annually, usually in June or July. , camouflaged as the G20 G20 The Group of Twenty (G20 or G-20) is a group made up of nineteen countries and the European Union whose ministers, central-bank directors and heads of state meet regularly. It was created in 1999 after the series of financial crises in the 1990s. Its aim is to encourage international consultation on the principle of broadening dialogue in keeping with the growing economic importance of a certain number of countries. Its members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, USA, UK and the European Union (represented by the presidents of the Council and of the European Central Bank). , is presenting itself as a bearer of solutions to the crisis. The G20 is of course more presentable than the G8, as the 20 countries represent two thirds of the world population. For all that, it remains illegitimate as a self-proclaimed board of directors. And it also remains worrying. In 1977, the precursor of the G8 created the debt crisis by calling on the oil countries to recycle petrodollars and banks to lend to them without looking too closely. It thereby broke the front of the Southern countries by rallying the oil countries against the poorest countries. Today it is trying the same strategy with the emerging countries. And the obedience of the latter regarding the proposals fine tuned by the Westerners leads us to fear the worst. The G20 is for now a still illegitimate camouflage of the G8.

That leaves the United Nations! It’s of course difficult to trust it when we look at it too closely. Looking at all those heads of state does not give confidence when it comes to the radical reform that’s indispensable. And yet the United Nations sometimes manages to surpass itself and to adopt positions much better than those who form it. Faced with the G8’s attempts to marginalise it from the 1980s, the United Nations system organised global conferences and succeeded in making alliances with the civil societies in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (on the environment and development) and in Istanbul in 1996, with the local communities. The adoption of the optional protocol on economic, social and cultural rights is an illustration of this: it was adopted despite opposition by nearly all the governments. At the heart of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enables alliances of social and intellectual forces to transcend the system and to force it to transcend itself. While of course disputable, the United Nations remains superior to all the managing bodies. As Churchill said about democracy, the United Nations is the worst of the international systems except all the others.

Reflecting on the crisis

Uncertainties remain regarding the time and prospects of the crisis. The “Braudelian” analysis of the study leads to the hypothesis of the end of a Kondratiev wave. It’s likely that a new cycle will characterise the next 25 to 40 years. It’s not predetermined, and several ways out are possible. From an ideological point of view, the neoliberalism crisis is strongly tied to the rise in power of alter-globalism, which sharpened the contradictions within the system. For all that, the neoliberalism crisis does not signify its inevitable disappearance. Moreover, the alter-globalist movement is not the only anti-systemic movement with regards to the system’s dominant way of thinking. Other various fundamentalist movements can also dispute the dominant current.

Two major tendencies are possible in the medium term. Several variants are possible for each tendency. The first tendency is that of a conservative dominant characteristic, along with a confrontation of a war neoliberalism or of other forms of regulation. The second tendency is that of in-depth reform of capitalism in a neo-Keynesian and ecological form or a “Green New-Deal”. An alter-globalist outcome is highly unlikely in the short term, as the conditions are not yet met; however, the reinforcement of the alter-globalist movement will have an influence on the possible outcomes.

It’s within five to 10 years that the new economic rationality will become formalised, just as neoliberalism asserted itself based on existing tendencies between 1979 and 1985. Discussion remains regarding what comes after this upcoming cycle. Immanuel Wallerstein has made the hypothesis of a reversal of the 100-year –or even multi-century– cycle, bringing up the historic possibility in the next 30 or 40 years of capitalism being overtaken, thereby giving new significance to alter-globalism.

We need to reflect on the crisis so as not to let ourselves be carried away by the turbulences. Without going into detail, some references to the lessons of the past can be useful. But without forgetting that each crisis is new and that each situation is specific. Let us recall several points of reference among many others that can contribute to building thought about the current global crisis.
The analysis of global capitalist accumulation, especially those of Samir Amin and Andre Gunder Frank, put the evolution back into perspective and underline the importance of colonisation transformed into North-South representation. Fernand Braudel’s analysis of world economies and Immanuel Wallerstein’s analysis of world-systems puts the phases of capitalist globalisation back into context and sets out the long, multi-century cycles and the short Kondratiev cycles that specify the phases of capitalism already clarified by Schumpeter.
The analysis of the crises by Baran, Sweezy and Magdoff reminds us that the evolution can be analysed as a succession of crises separated by periods of growth. They also propose an analysis of the sectors that lead each phase – today the automobile sector, which leads to asking questions about the emergence of digital and environmental industries. Ilya Prigogine emphasised the break-ups and the conditions of stability and instability of systems. Henri Lefebvre stated, 20 years ago, that a crisis does not always separate two favourable moments and that the main question deals with putting into question work as a social and cultural value. René Dumont, and more recently Anil Argawal, already linked environment and geopolitics.
On the nature of transitions, Karl Marx’s “Critique of the Gotha Programme” makes the distinction between adjustment and transformation. Rosa Luxembourg explicits the role of imperialism in crisis. Castoriadis, among others, has emphasized the importance of freedoms and the risks of totalitarianism in transitions. Ho Chi Minh insists on the necessity of starting from one’s weaknesses to transform them into strengths.
The contradiction experienced between emergency and social transformation sets up the strategic issue as the central issue of the period.

The dangers of the globalisation crisis

The old and venerable Chinese ideograms that represent “crisis” associate two, contradictory characters, as proper for all good dialectics: that of “dangers” and that of “opportunities”.

The first danger concerns poverty. The exit to the crisis being sought after consists of making the poor pay for the crisis, starting with the discriminated and the colonised. It also consists of planing down the middle classes. And, as if that were not enough, certain categories of rich are made to pay. From this, strong contradictions can be foreshadowed.

To make such policies go through, there will need to be repression, criminalisation of social movements, penalisation of solidarity; the use of terrorism, law-and-order ideology and racist, Islamophobic and nationalist agitation for political ends; and the exploitation of scapegoats, migrants, and the Romani. In some regions, this evolution will move towards authoritarian and repressive regimes, and even towards fascistic populisms.

Another exit to the crisis targets countries that will be marginalised and ruined. The risks of war are also a classic outcome of great crises. Let us not forget that the world is already at war and that nearly one billion people live in regions in war. Conflicts are permanent and destabilisation systematic. The forms of war have changed along with the militarisation of societies, global apartheid, the war of the strong against the weak and along with torture having become commonplace.

To fight against these dangers, we will have to strengthen the resistances and expand alliances and coalitions for freedoms, democracy and peace.

The opportunities of the global crisis

The dangers are known; the available opportunities are less so. Yet, as Hölderlin said, quoted by Edgar Morin, “Where danger grows, so does that which saves”. Let us remember six opportunities made available by the crisis. First, the ideological defeat of neoliberalism furthers the rise in power of public regulation. Next, redistribution of wealth and the return of the domestic market give back possibility for stabilisation and guarantee of incomes, social protection and redeployment of public services. Likewise, the ecological emergency requires a transformation in the mode of social development. Along the same lines, the crisis in the political model of representation reinforces the necessity for social democracy and participative democracy, as well as new reflection on powers. Furthermore, the rebalance between the North and the South is opening up a new phase of decolonisation and new world geopolitics. It is accompanied by new urbanisation and migrations that are the new forms of populating the planet. Finally, a system of global regulation makes it possible to think out and regulate social transformation at the global level and opens up the perspective of global citizenship. The alter-globalist movement contains these opportunities.

None of these opportunities will impose itself; they will be able to lead towards better situations only if resistances become magnified and if the social and ecological struggles and struggles for freedoms and against wars become keener. All the more so because the crisis is also opening up opportunities for the managing elite who will be divided between those who will lean towards renewed forms of oppression and those who will swing towards radical reform of capitalism. This radical reform is not inevitable, but it is not impossible. It will be credible only when all the paths enabling the elites to conserve the current forms of power turn out to be insufficient. Capitalism has shown, in particular after the 1929 crisis, along with the New Deal made explicit by Roosevelt, its capacity to “revolutionise” its social relationships. It is still capitalism, and as stated in Visconti’s film “The Leopard”: “Everything must change, for things to remain the same.”

The alter-globalist movement will be faced with attempts at radical reform, all the more so because, for the lofwer classes, the questions are urgent regarding the steps to take to get out of the initial, severe phase of the crisis. Likewise, in the medium term there is no equivalence between a conservative tendency and reform tendency. The questions remain unanswered regarding the capacity of these reforms to deal with the crisis and their insufficiency with regards to true emancipation. Further, assessments on these questions will differ in the movement. The position to take vis-à-vis the political forces tempted by these reforms, which we will call in an oversimplified way “Green New-Deal”, will remain to be defined according to the context and to various situations in the countries and the major regions. Two questions have already been asked... How can we avoid the alliance, between the neoliberal/conservative forces and the reformers, based on minimal reforms and on green and authoritarian regimes? How can possible reform movement be radicalised to the benefit of the lower classes?

The alter-globalist movement is not neglecting the possible improvements and is not hesitating to undertake to avoid intolerable situations. It is also, in its majority, concerned by radical transformation and takes the possibilities of going beyond capitalism that are made available by the crisis very seriously. This going beyond capitalism falls within the long-term and is not predetermined. In current society, there are already social relations that foreshadow it, like the capitalist social relations that emerged in feudal societies. These are not new, finished relations; these are attempts at overtaking that emerge in social practices but do not completely free themselves from dominant relations. The breaking off does not occur with the elimination of the former social relations, but with the time when new relations become dominant, subordinate the former social relations and transform them deeply. The new world born in the former is built progressively; it starts from contradictions experienced and builds new ones. The alter-globalist movement is a bearer of these new relations through resistances and innovative social practices. The social forums are the spaces of experimentation and visibility for them. They also facilitate the critical intellectual work that makes it possible to differentiate what can consolidate the reproduction of capitalist relations from that which announces new perspectives.

The alter-globalist movement must take action today at three levels. In the short term, it must resist and reinforce resistances against dangers. In the medium term, it must have influence – influence on the strategies of the reformers. In the long-term, it must transform – transform in order to go beyond capitalism. For each opportunity, it’s important to first of all indicate what the crisis highlights and what must be fought against to avoid preservation of the system and the dangers it bears. It’s then important to identify the proposals that emerge and that are envisioned by the reformers and that must be radicalised. It’s then important to make an outline of what comes to the surface and indicate the terms of and possible ideas for radical transformation.

Public and citizen regulation

The rise in power of public regulation will finish off the ideological defeat of neoliberalism. This collapse in ideology splits the neoliberal hegemonic bloc and announces a new phase of globalisation. Neoliberalism is still dominant, but it will be difficult for it to get back on its feet again. Nevertheless, it’s essential to continue to take into account neoliberal rationality. On the one hand, the neoliberal social forces are still powerful and are candidates to be part of the blocs in power and to heavily influence the dominant policies. On the other, even if another system asserts itself, the social relations of neoliberalism will remain at work, even if transformed and subordinated, in the economic, social, ideological and political ways of thinking.

State intervention in the economy has gained back all its legitimacy. The nationalisations said to be temporary, long enough to get out of the crisis, consist above all in socialising losses, but they will be difficult to toss into the junk room. We are a far from the time when Reagan asserted, “Stop calling upon the government. Government is not the solution; government is the problem”. The sovereign wealth funds had already opened the way to unexpected government interventions at the globalisation level. The evaluation of privatisations, which up to now have been requested without success, will certainly reserve surprises.

This evolution opens up a large-scale opportunity. It underlines the importance of public policies founded on the general interest Interest An amount paid in remuneration of an investment or received by a lender. Interest is calculated on the amount of the capital invested or borrowed, the duration of the operation and the rate that has been set. . The new rationality will have difficulty continuing to make regulation completely subject to the markets and to give up political decision to capital and their markets. It will have to free investments from the unbridled short-term search for profits and from “short-termism”, and to free companies from the dictatorship of stockholders and the global capital market.

The arbitrations in the medium term will depend on the ability of social movements and citizens to mobilise. The putting into question of financialisation will require the putting into question of the bank oligopoly and socialisation under democratic supervision of the banking system. The medium-term contracts, and their transparency, can ensure the basis of exchanges, linked to price stabilisation of raw materials and major products. The stock market activities Market activities
Buying and selling of financial instruments such as shares, futures, derivatives, options, and warrants conducted in the hope of making a short-term profit.
on medium-term transactions, which have only a speculative goal, would be forbidden. This socialisation will have to link up the bodies of countries and of major regions. Several mobilisations are giving orientations. One of the most urgent is the elimination of tax and legal havens. Let us also emphasise binding legal norms for the social and environmental responsibility of companies. Let us also emphasise the required rise in power of democracy inside companies.

Three major questions, that of the state, that of the global market and that of forms of property fall within the perspective of a possible overtaking of capitalism and are being dealt with starting now by the movements. The question of the state is present in terms of several aspects. First of all, the realisation of the contradictory nature of the state, both protector and oppressor, both bearer of general interest and defender of privileges. Democratisation and citizen control of the state, as well as the relationship of what we call, to simplify things, the “civil societies”, are at the centre of the reality of the democratic nature of societies. The nature of public policies is being put into question starting now. Discussion on nationalisations will be one of its important stages. The question of global market poses the necessity for an alternative to free market exchange. The emergence of major regions as a political, economic, financial and cultural space is opening real perspectives. It also implies a new conception of currency. The question of relations of property and their transformation is fundamental: that of land ownership at the core of agriculture and the control of urbanisation. This land ownership is still at the centre of the colonisation reasoning that is still present in many situations. The legal and social relations of property determine the plurality of forms of production. This issue can be found in discussions on the economy that can be characterised as social, not-for-profit Profit The positive gain yielded from a company’s activity. Net profit is profit after tax. Distributable profit is the part of the net profit which can be distributed to the shareholders. , solidarity-based or local. On nationalisations as well, along with the discussion on state ownership, socialisation and democratic management. And also on the forms of collective ownership, those of the stakeholders, the employees, the users and customers, the subcontractors and suppliers, the stockholders and the local institutions.

Redistribution of wealth and incomes

Redistribution of wealth, needed with regards to the reasoning of neoliberalism and its excesses, opens the way to temptation towards neo-Keynesian economics. It backs up the tendency to rehabilitate the domestic market, rather at the scale of major regions than at the national scale. It could lead to the rehabilitation of social protection systems and relative wage stability. The income levels and their progression would allow popular consumption to gain back a role as a motor of growth with regards to the over-indebtedness that set off the subprime crisis. The access to rights for all, of which the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a pale substitute, would once again be established. It would make it possible to consider redeployment of public services, along with significant involvement by local institutions and a strong not-for-profit association component.

There are two conditions for this hypothesis, which are not to be confused with the idea of a simple return to the pre-neoliberalism Keynesian model. The first condition is the need to respond to ecological limits that make an extension of productivism dangerous. The contradiction between ecology and social sector has become decisive; it’s essential to overcome it. The second condition is the need for regulation open at the global level compared to the national regulation rounded out by the Bretton Woods system from the 1960s.

At the heart of the crisis, there are the inequalities, the poverty and the discriminations. The draining of the lower and middle classes has reached such a level that it has wound up endangering the system as a whole. The redistribution of wealth is that of evolution towards greater social justice. It’s more a matter of valuing the incomes stemming from work than of distributing compensations. And, as the crisis is global, the response is that of a minimum income at the global level. Proposals exist. Peasant-farmer minimum income is one of the components, as we have been able to see in India. There, two years after the Mumbai Social Forum, a not-yet applied law was passed: a guarantee for each Indian peasant-farmer to have 100 days of work paid per year! In all the economies, the minimum salary in industry and services will have to be structurally valued and guaranteed. The proposal, which has been mentioned several times at the United Nations, is that each person in the world must have an income higher than the poverty level. This is calculated country by country: it’s half of the median income, i.e. that which separates the population into two halves, one earning more than the median revenue and the other less. This measure is virtuous; it sets a lower limit to the collapse of real economies. To carry this out, taxation, which must also be international, is necessary to enable its financing. The question of an upper limit of income must also be dealt with. The discussion is an old one. Today, it does not deal with the scale of inequalities; it deals with the principle of limits. The global minimum income, and the upper level to income, are a response to the global crisis.

The mobilisation of the movements will put all its weight on the importance and nature of redistribution of wealth and on the forms and methods of this redistribution. More radically, two major questions are already put forward, that of value of work and that of access to rights. First of all, that of value of work, starting off by recognizing the value that work represents and by disputing the reality and supremacy of a profit value. To do so, incomes must be connected to the prices of the products of primary labour more than according to the fluctuations of the speculative labour markets.

Access to rights for all is proposed as a strategic axis. What differentiates the Keynesian approach from a more radical approach is the highlighting of the equal access to rights with regards to an approach defining minimum rights considered to make up a social net.

The ecological and social emergency

The climate emergency and the exhaustion of resources makes a form of development based on productivism and wastes impossible. The ecological emergency imposes a breaking off, for a transformation of societies that combines the social and ecological aspects, peace and freedoms. It’s a project for the future that cannot be summed up as concrete utopia.

We have now gone beyond the stage of becoming aware of the ecological emergency. It’s no longer a matter of simply realising the limits and the importance of redefining the form of development. The political discussion deals with the nature of the model to promote. The proliferation of environment industries and of productive processes without waste will probably be insufficient. The two discussions focus on the sharing of wealth between the social classes and societies, and the compatibility between ecological emergency, social emergency and freedoms.

The ecological emergency can facilitate a more radical approach. It confirms the necessity for a process of redefining incomes and the indispensable international taxation. It encourages the approach via the Common Good and Public Property. Further, it leads to a redefining of wealth, its production and its sharing. In order to reduce productivist growth, without changing the meeting of fundamental needs, their nature must be changed. The evolution of individual and collective behaviours is needed, but moralising to aim towards voluntary simplicity and conservancy are not enough. Several ideas can be considered. The most important is that of the withdrawal of the mercantile categories, “demercantilisation”. This tendency, especially in the public services of education and health care, had made advances in the 1945-1980 period. Neoliberalism fought it constantly, especially by privatisations and the sanctification of the capitalist market. Other ideas are possible. The meeting of fundamental needs, reinforced by the equal access to rights for all, will not suffer from a reduction of military and arms expenditures. It would benefit from a reduction of the labour time resulting from a reorientation of productivity and the redefining of productions. It would be facilitated by a policy of economising on transport, corresponding to the search for localisation and relocalisation, according to the economic access to resources and consumptions, without taking low labour remuneration as the sole adjustment value.

The models and representations of freedoms

The crisis of models of representation and power is one of the dimensions of the global crisis. The putting into cause of freedoms is one of the main dangers of the consequences of this crisis. A “Green New-Deal” is not in itself a guarantee for freedoms and democracy. There can be state regulation and public interventions that make little case for freedoms. Furthermore, the ecological emergency can act as support to authoritarian excesses. It’s the mobilisation of social and citizen movements that will determine the evolution in the medium term in the various countries and at the global level.

Among the opportunities, several concern the models of representation. The reconstruction of social ties could find new opportunities with regards to the legal and formal forms of democracy imposed from above. The forms in which participative democracy, which would take its strength in reference to direct democracy, and representative democracy, which is very often carried out by proxies and “notables”, should progress and become diversified. The access to individual and collective rights for all should set up a social democracy without which political democracy would lose much of its attractiveness. It may be more difficult to consider institutional and electoral systems as independent from social situations.

The strategic alliance between the local communities and the movements of associations will be the foundation of the relationship between local populations and local communities and will give greater legitimacy to the citizenship of residence. It will modify the representation of social change that today relies exclusively on two social actors: businesses and the state, reduced to its administrations. The relationship between economic power and political power that gives its meaning to the forms of democracy will have to take into account the active presence of citizens and local powers.

A more radical approach will have to leave plenty of room for the cultural dimension. It will give legitimacy to multiple identities that will renew the relationship between the individual and the collective body. It will give room to democratic self-managed and self-organised activities. It will enable the forms of civil society, in the sense of that defined by Gramsci, to go beyond the sole reference to counter-powers in order to expand citizen control and to build spaces of people’s autonomy. This approach will make it possible to set up freedoms by linking rights and responsibilities, as rights start with the respect of the rights of others.

A new phase of decolonisation

The rebalance between North and South opens up a new phase of decolonisation and new world geopolitics. It could close the phase that goes from 1979 to 2008, that of taking the situation in hand again via the management of the debt crisis, the control of raw materials and military interventions. Between 30 and 50 emerging countries, including the three most representative –Brazil, India and China– can defend their point of view and their interests. It’s not a question of a multipolar world, but a new international geopolitical system. There could be considerable consequences, especially for the terms of international exchange and for the nature of migrations.

There are two conditions for this evolution, which will not occur without upheavals. The first condition is that the emerging countries be capable of changing their model of growth, by giving priority to the domestic market and to consumption by the lower and middle classes over exportations. This disconnection is possible. The second condition is that the emerging countries build forms of unity between the Southern countries; this can be of interest to them. The first phase of decolonisation largely failed when the oil countries, after the 1977 shock, let division settle in among the Southern countries, allowing the G7, backed by the IMF and the World Bank, to impose structural adjustment Structural Adjustment Economic policies imposed by the IMF in exchange of new loans or the rescheduling of old loans.

Structural Adjustments policies were enforced in the early 1980 to qualify countries for new loans or for debt rescheduling by the IMF and the World Bank. The requested kind of adjustment aims at ensuring that the country can again service its external debt. Structural adjustment usually combines the following elements : devaluation of the national currency (in order to bring down the prices of exported goods and attract strong currencies), rise in interest rates (in order to attract international capital), reduction of public expenditure (’streamlining’ of public services staff, reduction of budgets devoted to education and the health sector, etc.), massive privatisations, reduction of public subsidies to some companies or products, freezing of salaries (to avoid inflation as a consequence of deflation). These SAPs have not only substantially contributed to higher and higher levels of indebtedness in the affected countries ; they have simultaneously led to higher prices (because of a high VAT rate and of the free market prices) and to a dramatic fall in the income of local populations (as a consequence of rising unemployment and of the dismantling of public services, among other factors).


The social and citizen movement can, in this stage, put forward several proposals. These are, among others, debt cancellation, the stabilisation of raw material prices, food sovereignty and the respect of migrants’ rights. From a geopolitical point of view, this evolution will correspond to a double transformation, that of the reinforcement of one of the counter-tendencies of globalisation in its current form, that of major self-reliant regions, and that of going beyond the contradiction between the North and the South in the building of a balanced international system and of global public regulation.

Global public regulation

The failure of the international institutions of globalisation is patently obvious. The WTO was supposed to round out the Bretton Woods system and NATO NATO
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NATO ensures US military protection for the Europeans in case of aggression, but above all it gives the USA supremacy over the Western Bloc. Western European countries agreed to place their armed forces within a defence system under US command, and thus recognize the preponderance of the USA. NATO was founded in 1949 in Washington, but became less prominent after the end of the Cold War. In 2002, it had 19 members: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the UK, the USA, to which were added Greece and Turkey in 1952, the Federal Republic of Germany in 1955 (replaced by Unified Germany in 1990), Spain in 1982, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic in 1999.
have overall responsibility of the military alliances. This project was not able to succeed. Regulation via the global capital market foundered into the neoliberalism crisis, highlighting the importance of global public regulation.

Looking for alternatives to the transformation of each society implies another international system. Wars linked to control of resources and territories are still current events; the identity dimension of conflicts is becoming more pronounced, combining spatial segregation and so-called “ethnic” purification. The intermixed dialectic of network terrorisms and state terrorisms is making civil and political rights regress in the name of a “shock of civilisations” that justifies the doctrine of preventive war, “lawlessness” and torture, the strategy of wars by the strong over the weak and the surprise of discovering the ability of the weak to find the vulnerability of the strong.

Backed by the struggles for democratisation, a reform of the international system can be proposed. It includes: the democratisation of the functioning of the institutions that must implement international regulation; the setting up of effective arbitration and recourse bodies; an international system of complaints that can be submitted by citizens associations; priority in the international system to the fight against impunity; effective integration of international financial and trade institutions, IMF, World Bank, International Finance Corporation and WTO into the direct system of the United Nations; a new architecture, which could be based on regional cooperation groups, and a system of regional representation at the global level; and obligation for the international agreements and treaties of all the international institutions to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A new system to be defined must take into account three essential dimensions: the building of peace and the settling of conflicts; the reduction of ecological risks; and the system of international relations that further the transformation of societies along the lines of freedom, equality and solidarity. The approach through rights and through equality of access to rights lays out the perspective of global social contract. It renews the conception of social transformation.

To go further in defining a strategy, let us propose a guideline organised around two necessities: a new constitution of the world based on global democracy; a global social contract founded on the respect and guarantee of rights that are as much civil and political as economic, social and cultural. Today the evolution of international law is, from the angle of this guideline, the strategic point of confrontations. International law can be based only on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter. It’s the fixed point around which to build the system of international relations, the fulcrum that gives the United Nations its legitimacy in the global system.

The indispensable global regulation will require an overhaul of the system of international relations, based on radical reform of the United Nations and progression of international law founded on the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that rejects the subordination of individual and collective rights to commercial law and business law. This global regulation could make the reality of global citizenship progress.

And to conclude for the time being

These several reflections on the opportunities made available by the crisis show the interweaving between the readjustments and the breaking off that corresponds to more radical perspectives. By highlighting the potential that resistances can provide, the current practices and the intellectual requirements, alter-globalism gives a perspective to getting out of the global crisis in its various configurations. By encouraging resistances against authoritarian and repressive conservatisms, it allows us to reinforce the demands for social modernisations, coalitions for freedoms and democracy. It allows us to fight against the building of a new hegemonic bloc formed through an alliance between the neo-liberals and the neo-Keynesians and to push the global Green New-Deal to surpass its limits. It allows us to outline the alternatives that will characterise another world that’s possible. It allows us to go further. A new project of collective emancipation is on the agenda. Capitalism is not eternal; the question of going beyond capitalism is a topical one. And we must start now to define and build another world that’s possible.

Gustave Massiah is the President of CRID


[1.Contribution to the Strategy Commission of the World Social Forum’s International Council. This document takes up the themes of the November 2008 article “The Alter-globalist Movement and the Crisis of Globalisation”, developed from discussions carried out at the CRID Board of Trustees; Attac’s Scientific Committee; meetings of the CEDETIM, AITEC and IPAM (Initiatives Pour un Autre Monde); and the Alternatives International network.

Gustave Massiah

est une des personnalités centrales du mouvement altermondialiste. Ingénieur et économiste, né en 1938 au Caire, a présidé le CRID (Centre de recherche et d’information pour le développement), galaxie d’associations d’aide au développement et de soutien aux luttes des pays du Sud, et a été vice-président d’Attac-France de 2003 à 2006.




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