Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/331/5607
World Social Forum 2004, Mumbai
NGOs Provide No Solutions For The Exploited
OVER 120,000 people attended the World Social Forum (WSF) in Mumbai, India. The majority came in their tens of thousands from the most poverty stricken areas of India as well as other countries in Asia such as Pakistan, South Korea, Tibet and the Philippines.
Kevin Simpson (CWI), Mumbai
Also present were hundreds of trade unionists who explained the horrific conditions they face as a result of the exploitation of the multinational companies and also local capitalists (interviews in next week's the socialist).
However, they would not have found a programme from the WSF organisers and most speakers on how to fight back against mass unemployment, poverty, and discrimination.
THE ATTENDANCE at the WSF is dominated by members of the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). While many sincere people work for the NGOs, their leaders have played a negative role in the workers' movement in Asia. With Western aid, they have diverted a whole layer of potential activists from class struggle with the promise of jobs and a personal solution for the problems they face.
While the NGOs produce much factual material explaining the horrific conditions faced by workers and poor farmers in the region, they, in reality, oppose a determined struggle to change the conditions of the masses in this part of the world.
NGO leaders who in the past have been good trade union and community activists are now in control of huge budgets that have had a corrupting influence on their politics. It is also the case that some NGOs have made millions of Rupees at this event by winning contracts to provide goods and services.
The WSF has a programme of meetings which numbers over 200 pages with literally thousands of meetings at the six-day event. However, even at meetings scheduled to have over 20,000 delegates present they attracted only a few hundred. This is because most of the meetings provide no solutions to the problems that they face.
At the bigger meetings dominated by political activists, the leaders of NGOs address the meetings in terms which simply are not understood by the workers, peasants and youth who are there.
As the President of the United Labour Federation, V. Prakash told CWI members: "The panel meetings simply exchange grievances of various different sectors facing exploitation. When those attending the meetings ask 'how are we going to change things', the panel speakers simply say: 'we have to rush to the next panel'."
At a meeting of the main left parties, including Bertinotti of the PRC (Communist Refoundation, Italy) and representatives from the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist), not one speaker mentioned what kind of society should be fought for. The words "socialism" and "communism" never passed their lips.
DESPITE THIS, many genuine activists, workers and youth have attempted to find their own solutions through thousands of informal discussions, exchanging experiences and attempting to formulate strategies to fight back against the conditions they face.
The Committee for a Workers International (CWI - the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) has members from Australia, Austria, Britain, CIS, India, Sri Lanka and Sweden attending the event. We distributed over 40,000 leaflets (in English, Tamil and Hindi) explaining the case for socialism.
We were the only political group who produced material like this for the event. 121 copies of the CWI's Indian Paper (Dudiyorohaata - Workers' Struggle) were sold at just one session to mainly poor farmers from the Karnataka region of India. Many workers and youth have eagerly snatched this material from our hands and become involved in animated discussions. The betrayals of the Communist Parties in India mean that there is a layer of young people looking for anti-capitalist and socialist ideas in the form of a new party.
At a CWI meeting on Sri Lanka (with speakers from the CWI's party in Sri Lanka) two workers from Tamil Nadu in southern India joined the New Socialist Alternative, the CWI's section here.
It is workers and young people like these that the CWI is seeking to provide answers to through our political explanation and our record of campaigning against oppression and exploitation across the globe.
The CWI fights in countries throughout the world for a programme for the workers, poor and oppressed of the world which includes policies such as:
Support for local struggles against landlords and capitalists
Establishment of mass workers' parties
Repudiate all foreign debt, oppose the IMF, World Bank and WTO
Nationalise the big landed estates and put them under the democratic control of the rural workers and rural poor.
Nationalise all foreign companies without compensation, and place them under workers' control and management
Overthrow the corrupt elites and establish a workers' state, based on workers' control and management of the commanding heights of the economy, with a plan of production based on the needs of the people.
Work for a socialist world, a world plan of production democratically agreed at local level
In The Socialist 24 January 2004:
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis