The Spirit of Porto Alegre

, by  WALLERSTEIN Immanuel

The spirit inspired of the WSF in Porto Alegre since 2001 is the coming together in a non-hierarchical fashion of the world family of anti-systemic movements to push for intellectual clarity, militant actions based on popular mobilization that can be seen as immediately useful in people’s lives, simultaneously argue for longer-run, more fundamental changes. Of course, we shall have to see whether a loosely-structured world movement can hold together in any meaningful sense, and by what means it can develop the tactics of the struggle. But its very looseness makes it a force difficult to suppress. If the Global Left commits itself to loosely-structured, extra-parliamentary militant tactics, this immediately raises the question of our attitude towards electoral processes. Electoral victories will not transform the world; but they cannot be neglected. They are an essential mechanism of protecting the immediate needs of the world’s populations against losses of achieved benefits.

There will be an immense struggle over the successor system, which shall continue for 20-40 years, and whose outcome is intrinsically uncertain. History is on no one’s side. It depends on what we do. On the other hand, this offers a great opportunity for creative action. During the normal life of an historical system, even great efforts at transformation have limited consequences since the system creates great pressures to return to its equilibrium. But in the chaotic ambiance of a structural transition, even small pushes can have great consequences in favoring one branch or the other of the bifurcation. The key problem is not organization, however important that be. The key problem is lucidity. The forces who wish to change the system so that nothing changes, so that we have a different system that is equally or even more hierarchical and polarizing, have money, energy, and intelligence at their disposal. They will dress up the fake changes in attractive clothing. In the inherent uncertainty of the world, at its moments of historic transformation, the only plausible strategy for the Global Left is one of intelligent, militant pursuit of its basic objective - the achievement of a relatively democratic, relatively egalitarian world. Such a world is possible. It is by no means certain that it will come into being. But then it is by no means impossible.