You probably won’t hear about it on television or read about it in your local newspaper, but advocates for social justice are gaining momentum because of the global economic crisis. It’s not the Red Plague or the Yellow Peril, Socialism or Communism… or any other bogeyman the mainstream media have been warning us about for most of my lifetime. It’s a grassroots movement fueled by people who come from many different countries, backgrounds and political persuasions but who are united by their outrage over social injustice and “man’s inhumanity to man.”
The recently concluded World Social Forum is one manifestation of this movement. This year’s event was held in Brazil, so most of the 5,808 participating organizations were from Latin America, but about 1,600 were drawn from the rest of the world, including 491 from Europe, 489 from Africa, 334 from Asia and 155 from North America. The presidents of Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay were among the more than 100,000 people who attended the five-day event.
The World Social Forum was formed in 2001 to counteract the abuses of corporation-driven globalization, and the activists who run these organizations have long predicted the current economic collapse. But the question remains: Where do we go from here?
In retreating from globalization, the world could be torn apart by such equally menacing developments as financial and commercial nationalism. According to an article by Tim Costello and Brendan Smith in The Nation, a European delegate at the forum warned of the possible resurgence of right-wing politics. Hard times have produced fascist leaders in Europe in the past and it could happen again. The challenge for progressives is to preempt this dangerous development by offering better alternatives.
Here’s a quote from the article, attributed to economist Walden Bello of Focus on the Global South:
There is a sense of urgency and seriousness combining both pragmatism and principle. There is much less rhetoric. Things are taking place very fast outstripping what many predicted. There is a clear collapse of neo-liberalism. We have been triumphant over Davos…. Now we need alternatives and must get down to the hard work of creating them.
The world desperately needs those “alternatives.” The season for protest is over. Now comes the hard part. For those who consider themselves “progressive,” the time has come to deliver the goods.