Contributors to the Reader
The Communist Manifesto
The World Social Forum
4.1 World Social Forum Charter of Principles : World Social Forum Organising Committee and World Social Forum International Council, June 2001
4.2 Today’s Bandung : Michael Hardt, March-April 2002
Call of Social Movements
Porto Alegre Manifesto
The Bamako Appeal
Reactions to the Bamako Appeal
Beyond Bamako : Many Worlds, Many Languages
The World Social Forum

A Movement of Movements?

Michael Hardt, AMrch-April 2002

[Reproduced here from published article in New Left Review Vol. 14 March - April 2002 Accessible @]

Rather than opposing the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre to the World Economic Forum in New York, it is more revealing to imagine it as the distant offspring of the
historic Bandung Conference that took place in Indonesia in 1955. Both were conceived as attempts to counter the dominant world order: colonialism and the oppressive Cold War binary in the case of Bandung, and the rule of capitalist globalization in that of Porto Alegre. The differences, however, are immediately apparent. On one hand the
Bandung Conference, which brought together leaders primarily from
Asia and Africa, revealed in a dramatic way the racial dimension of
the colonial and Cold War world order, which Richard Wright famously
described as being divided by the ‘colour curtain’. Porto Alegre, in
contrast, was a predominantly white event. There were relatively few participants
from Asia and Africa, and the racial differences of the Americas
were dramatically underrepresented. This points toward a continuing
task facing those gathered at Porto Alegre: to globalize further the
movements, both within each society and across the world—a project
in which the Forum is merely one step. On the other hand, whereas
Bandung was conducted by a small group of national political leaders
and representatives, Porto Alegre was populated by a swarming multitude
and a network of movements. This multitude of protagonists is
the great novelty of the World Social Forum, and central to the hope it
offers for the future.

The first and dominant impression of the Forum was its overflowing
enormity; not so much the number of people there—the organizers
say 80,000 participated—but rather the number of events, encounters
and happenings. The programme listing all the official conferences,
seminars and workshops—most of which took place at the Catholic
University—was the size of a tabloid newspaper, but one soon realized
that there were innumerable other unofficial meetings taking place all
over town, some publicized on posters and leaflets, others by word of
mouth. There were also separate gatherings for the different groups
participating in the Forum, such as a meeting of the Italian social
movements or one for the various national sections of ATTAC. Then
there were the demonstrations: both officially planned, such as the
opening mass May Day-style parade, and smaller, conflictual demonstrations
against, for example, the members of parliament from different
countries at the Forum who voted for the present war on terrorism.
Finally, another series of events was held at the enormous youth camp
by the river, its fields and fields of tents housing 15,000 people in an
atmosphere reminiscent of a summer music festival, especially when
it rained and everyone tramped through the mud wearing plastic sacks
as raincoats. In short, if anyone with obsessive tendencies were to try
to understand what was happening at Porto Alegre, the result would
certainly have been a complete mental breakdown. The Forum was
unknowable, chaotic, dispersive. And that overabundance created an
exhilaration in everyone, at being lost in a sea of people from so many
parts of the world who are working similarly against the present form of
capitalist globalization.

This open encounter was the most important element of Porto Alegre.
Even though the Forum was limited in some important respects—socially
and geographically, to name two—it was nonetheless an opportunity to
globalize further the cycle of struggles that have stretched from Seattle to
Genoa, which have been conducted by a network of movements thus far
confined, by and large, to the North Atlantic. Dealing with many of the
same issues as those who elsewhere contest the present capitalist form
of globalization, or specific institutional policies such as those of the
IMF, the movements themselves have remained limited. Recognizing
the commonality of their projects with those in other parts of the world
is the first step toward expanding the network of movements, or linking
one network to another. This recognition, indeed, is primarily responsible
for the happy, celebratory atmosphere of the Forum.
The encounter should, however, reveal and address not only the common
projects and desires, but also the differences of those involved—
differences of material conditions and political orientation. The various
movements across the globe cannot simply connect to each other as
they are, but must rather be transformed by the encounter through a
kind of mutual adequation. Those from North America and Europe,
for example, cannot but have been struck by the contrast between their
experience and that of agricultural labourers and the rural poor in
Brazil, represented most strongly by the MST (Landless Movement)—
and vice versa. What kind of transformations are necessary for the
Euro-American globalization movements and the Latin American movements,
not to become the same, or even to unite, but to link together in
an expanding common network? The Forum provided an opportunity to
recognize such differences and questions for those willing to see them,
but it did not provide the conditions for addressing them. In fact, the
very same dispersive, overflowing quality of the Forum that created the
euphoria of commonality also effectively displaced the terrain on which
such differences and conflicts could be confronted.

Anti-capitalism and national sovereignty
The Porto Alegre Forum was in this sense perhaps too happy, too
celebratory and not conflictual enough. The most important political difference
cutting across the entire Forum concerned the role of national
sovereignty. There are indeed two primary positions in the response
to today’s dominant forces of globalization: either one can work to
re inforce the sovereignty of nation-states as a defensive barrier against
the control of foreign and global capital, or one can strive towards a nonnational
alternative to the present form of globalization that is equally
global. The first poses neoliberalism as the primary analytical category,
viewing the enemy as unrestricted global capitalist activity with weak
state controls; the second is more clearly posed against capital itself,
whether state-regulated or not. The first might rightly be called an antiglobalization
position, in so far as national sovereignties, even if linked
by international solidarity, serve to limit and regulate the forces of capitalist
globalization. National liberation thus remains for this position the
ultimate goal, as it was for the old anticolonial and anti-imperialist struggles.
The second, in contrast, opposes any national solutions and seeks
instead a democratic globalization.

The first position occupied the most visible and dominant spaces of the
Porto Alegre Forum; it was represented in the large plenary sessions,
repeated by the official spokespeople, and reported in the press. A
key proponent of this position was the leadership of the Brazilian PT
(Workers’ Party)—in effect the host of the Forum, since it runs the city
and regional government. It was obvious and inevitable that the PT
would occupy a central space in the Forum and use the international
prestige of the event as part of its campaign strategy for the upcoming
elections. The second dominant voice of national sovereignty was the
French leadership of ATTAC, which laid the groundwork for the Forum
in the pages of Le Monde Diplomatique. The leadership of ATTAC is, in
this regard, very close to many of the French politicians—most notably
Jean-Pierre Chevènement—who advocate strengthening national sovereignty
as a solution to the ills of contemporary globalization. These, in
any case, are the figures who dominated the representation of the Forum
both internally and in the press.

The non-sovereign, alternative globalization position, in contrast, was
minoritarian at the Forum—not in quantitative terms but in terms of
representation; in fact, the majority of the participants in the Forum
may well have occupied this minoritarian position. First, the various
movements that have conducted the protests from Seattle to Genoa
are generally oriented towards non-national solutions. Indeed, the
centralized structure of state sovereignty itself runs counter to the horizontal
network-form that the movements have developed. Second, the
Argentinian movements that have sprung up in response to the present
financial crisis, organized in neighbourhood and city-wide delegate
assemblies, are similarly antagonistic to proposals of national sovereignty.
Their slogans call for getting rid, not just of one politician, but
all of them—que se vayan todos: the entire political class. And finally, at
the base of the various parties and organizations present at the Forum
the sentiment is much more hostile to proposals of national sovereignty
than at the top. This may be particularly true of ATTAC, a hybrid
organization whose head, especially in France, mingles with traditional
politicians, whereas its feet are firmly grounded in the movements.
The division between the sovereignty, anti-globalization position and the
non-sovereign, alternative globalization position is therefore not best
understood in geographical terms. It does not map the divisions between
North and South or First World and Third. The conflict corresponds
rather to two different forms of political organization. The traditional parties
and centralized campaigns generally occupy the national sovereignty
pole, whereas the new movements organized in horizontal networks
tend to cluster at the non-sovereign pole. And furthermore, within traditional,
centralized organizations, the top tends toward sovereignty and
the base away. It is no surprise, perhaps, that those in positions of power
would be most interested in state sovereignty and those excluded least.
This may help to explain, in any case, how the national sovereignty, antiglobalization
position could dominate the representations of the Forum
even though the majority of the participants tend rather toward the perspective
of a non-national alternative globalization.

As a concrete illustration of this political and ideological difference, one
can imagine the responses to the current economic crisis in Argentina
that logically follow from each of these positions. Indeed that crisis
loomed over the entire Forum, like a threatening premonition of a chain
of economic disasters to come. The first position would point to the
fact that the Argentinian debacle was caused by the forces of global
capital and the policies of the IMF, along with the other supranational
institutions that undermine national sovereignty. The logical oppositional
response should thus be to reinforce the national sovereignty of
Argentina (and other nation-states) against these destabilizing external
forces. The second position would identify the same causes of the crisis,
but insist that a national solution is neither possible nor desirable. The
alternative to the rule of global capital and its institutions will only
be found at an equally global level, by a global democratic movement.
The practical experiments in democracy taking place today at neighbourhood
and city levels in Argentina, for example, pose a necessary
continuity between the democratization of Argentina and the democratization
of the global system. Of course, neither of these perspectives
provides an adequate recipe for an immediate solution to the crisis that
would circumvent IMF prescriptions—and I am not convinced that such
a solution exists. They rather present different political strategies for
action today which seek, in the course of time, to develop real alternatives
to the current form of global rule.

Parties vs networks
In a previous period we could have staged an old-style ideological confrontation
between the two positions. The first could accuse the second
of playing into the hands of neoliberalism, undermining state sovereignty
and paving the way for further globalization. Politics, the one
could continue, can only be effectively conducted on the national terrain and within the nation-state. And the second could reply that national
regimes and other forms of sovereignty, corrupt and oppressive as they
are, are merely obstacles to the global democracy that we seek. This kind
of confrontation, however, could not take place at Porto Alegre—in part
because of the dispersive nature of the event, which tended to displace
conflicts, and in part because the sovereignty position so successfully
occupied the central representations that no contest was possible.
But the more important reason for a lack of confrontation may have had
to do with the organizational forms that correspond to the two positions.
The traditional parties and centralized organizations have spokespeople
who represent them and conduct their battles, but no one speaks for a
network. How do you argue with a network? The movements organized
within them do exert their power, but they do not proceed through oppositions.
One of the basic characteristics of the network form is that no
two nodes face each other in contradiction; rather, they are always triangulated
by a third, and then a fourth, and then by an indefinite number
of others in the web. This is one of the characteristics of the Seattle
events that we have had the most trouble understanding: groups which
we thought in objective contradiction to one another—environmentalists
and trade unions, church groups and anarchists—were suddenly
able to work together, in the context of the network of the multitude. The
movements, to take a slightly different perspective, function something
like a public sphere, in the sense that they can allow full expression of
differences within the common context of open exchange. But that does
not mean that networks are passive. They displace contradictions and
operate instead a kind of alchemy, or rather a sea change, the flow of
the movements transforming the traditional fixed positions; networks
imposing their force through a kind of irresistible undertow.
Like the Forum itself, the multitude in the movements is always overflowing,
excessive and unknowable. It is certainly important then, on the
one hand, to recognize the differences that divide the activists and politicians
gathered at Porto Alegre. It would be a mistake, on the other hand,
to try to read the division according to the traditional model of ideological
conflict between opposing sides. Political struggle in the age of network
movements no longer works that way. Despite the apparent strength of
those who occupied centre stage and dominated the representations of
the Forum, they may ultimately prove to have lost the struggle. Perhaps
the representatives of the traditional parties and central ized organizations
at Porto Alegre are too much like the old national leaders gathered
at Bandung—imagine Lula of the PT in the position of Ahmed Sukarno
as host, and Bernard Cassen of ATTAC France as Jawaharlal Nehru, the
most honoured guest. The leaders can certainly craft resolutions affirming
national sovereignty around a conference table, but they can never
grasp the democratic power of the movements. Eventually they too will
be swept up in the multitude, which is capable of transforming all fixed
and centralized elements into so many more nodes in its indefinitely
expansive network.