World Economic Forum, World Social Forum and Anarchism

Summary

The WEF delegates confront two complementary but contrasting ideas: On the one hand, the so called "war against terror" has thrown into sharp relief the fragility of the way the world works - and, say some of the global elite in attendance, the need to bridge the ever-widening chasm between rich and poor. But the parlous state of the world economy was also concentrating the minds of attendees on how to dig their countries (and companies), out of the economical depression hole, with large unemployment and bureaucracy costs in general, in which they find themselves. IIFOR researchers say: "Without real anarchist economics and efficient and fair demand management the economies will never reach full employment and maximal welfare for the people".

To give more money to the poor, by direct aid or cutting debt, it is of course nice, but will not solve the main problem, starvation. People cannot eat money or manufacturing goods, and more education or medicine will not do the starving less hungry, because the total food production rules (and is approximately proportional with) the world population. Thus, the problem with the gap between rich and poor cannot be solved without massive birthcontrol in the overpopulated, poor, areas, combined with large real investments, also in food production, but within ecological limits, free contracts - not slavecontracts, etc.

The Forum is seen also by the marxist "anti-globalisation" and "anti-capitalism" protesters as a talking and networking shop for the rich to cement their ascendancy. In the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre a "World Social Forum" is intended to provide a counterpoint to the business-dominated New York summit. The marxists have however no real solution to the problem, as explained in IJ@ 4 (31) chapter IX. Thus, the WSF is an equal impotent flop as the WEF in purpose of doing away with the roots of terrorism and powerty. The reports from WSF and WEF indicate no real solutions or plans, because they don't take into account the necessary anarchist economics broadly defined.

World Economic Forum in Davos 2000/2001

Tuesday, 30.01.2001: The World Economic Forum held in the Swiss resort of Davos has closed after six days of heated debate between business leaders and critics of globalisation. The Forum is assumed to be "a meeting place for the movers and shakers of the globalised economy". The Mexican president, Vicente Fox, was among those who made passionate pleas for more help for the poorest countries. Heads of big international businesses such as McDonalds, Monsanto and Du Pont, insisted they were acting as "good corporate citizens". There was strong criticism in some quarters of the policing arrangements outside the conference, where "anti-capitalist" protests were broken up by the Swiss police. Many of the pressure groups invited to Davos are threatening to stay away in the future if demonstrations are to be banned. If they do boycott the event, the forum's efforts to build a dialogue between business and critics of the free market would probably suffer an embarrassing setback. 28.01.2001: In a speech to the Davos summit, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urges business leaders to consider the effects of globalisation on the world's poor, or risk an anti-capitalist backlash. Speaking at the forum in Davos the Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates pledges one hundred million dollars to help develop a preventive Aids vaccine, and challenges international business leaders to follow his lead.

World Economic Forum in New York 2002

Wednesday, 30.01.2002: By inviting the world to New York for its annual meeting, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has sought to offer its support to the shaken city in the wake of the 11 September terror attacks. About 4,000 police officers are expected to patrol the area surrounding the historic Waldorf-Astoria hotel in midtown Manhattan, where the WEF is being held. Demonstrators are reticent to do battle with New York law-enforcement officials - given the hero-status those have achieved in the wake of the terror attacks. Large masks are part of demonstrators' costume. The WEF, which brings together 3,000 of the world's most powerful leaders in business and politics, has traditionally been held in Davos, Switzerland. Organisers last year opted to decamp to New York in a show of solidarity, amid rising security costs for the Swiss alpine resort, and acknowledging the temporary reluctance of some business leaders to do long-distance air travel. Despite its relatively remote location, Davos had for the past two years attracted protests, although none were as violent as the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle in 1999 and a gathering of the G8 in Genoa, Italy last summer.

More democratic process?

Anti-WEF forces who have gathered in New York told reporters on Tuesday they objected to the closed nature of the meetings. They also claimed the WEF was using New York as a front to cover for the organisations' failed policies, which did nothing to relieve poverty among the world's poorest nations. "The WEF claims they're coming to New York to demonstrate their concern," said Simon Greer, a spokesman for Jobs with Justice, a labour advocacy group. Some may argue WEF are coming to New York to disguise their agenda. That agenda, anti-WEF forces contend, fails to address issues of poverty and healthcare, which have only increased over the last 20 years. Some protesters say deregulation, privatisation and job flexibility - issues the WEF has promoted - have only made matters worse for the world's poor. For its part, the WEF says this year's meeting will focus on restoring sustained economic growth, among other topics. The nations of the world have been caught in a worldwide economic downdraft - led by a failing technology sector in the US and further exacerbated by September's terror attacks. Over the course of the five-day Manhattan meeting, nearly 3,000 participants from 106 countries are expected, with about one-quarter of those participating from developing countries. While organisers have vowed to return the meeting to Davos in 2003, its location in subsequent years is still undecided, awaiting evaluation of the special New York gathering. The anarchists question how fragile the world economy is? Analysts now agree the September 11th attacks were not in themselves a significant economic shock. Are the reverberations making any real economic difference to world economies?

Forum hopes for economic recovery

Friday, 01.02.2002: Hopes of a rapid recovery for the US and world economies, and calls for concerted action on poverty, have dominated the first, rain-soaked day of the World Economic Forum. The forum is based at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. The surrounding area has been barricaded off. With protests remaining peaceful, more than 3,000 of the world's political and business movers and shakers kickstarted the summit in the unaccustomed surroundings of bustling New York City. The shadow of 11 September hung heavy, and the executives and political leaders avidly debated the relationship between the economy and the "war on terrorism". Many said they felt they had seen the back of the worst of the downturn. "Like Wagner's music, the US economy is better than it sounds," said Jacob Frenkel, president of investment bank Merrill Lynch International. "We will see a significant recovery in the US in the second half of the year, and that will pull the rest of the world with it."

Caution

But Stephen Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley, said the economic fundamentals were "crummy" and the recession would show "a double dip in the spring. Other speakers reminded delegates, most of whom come from rich countries, that they needed to remember that widening gap between rich and poor. Gloria Arroyo, president of the Philippines, said that without a concerted effort to tackle poverty both economic stability and success in the war against terrorism would remain out of reach. - "Now that our global coalition against terrorism has been successful, we should use this to fight poverty, because terrorism and poverty are twins." Her advice echoed the words of other influential participants, who fear that political and business leaders from rich countries would prefer not to be bothered with the connections between unrest and international economic inequality.

In an interview with the International Herald Tribune (IHT), World Bank president James Wolfensohn warned that aid to poorer countries needed to be massively expanded. Three months ago, Mr Wolfensohn shared a platform with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the UK's chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown, to call for aid to be doubled from its current "paltry" level to $100bn a year. And Niall Fitzgerald, chief executive of UK-based household goods multinational Unilever, warned against over-confidence. "I don't think we're going to see a quick recovery," he said, noting the massive levels of debt in economies around the world. "As there are more people out of work - and there will be - and problems in the financial markets continue, the debt will become a problem." The huge injection of stimulus into economies around the world could see a recovery in 2002 peter out in 2003, he warned.

But the US - both Congress and the White House - is blocking the idea. The main US representative, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, reiterated his opposition. British and other opposition to converting loans to grants on the basis that this will reduce aid spending - repayments go back into the fund at present - was "an absurdity", he said. "It would be a lot easier for me to say to the President that we should compromise if I can find one argument that strikes me as legitimate," he said. But he said he could see common ground in the aid-doubling proposal. Much of the discussion was about the impact of the 11 September attacks on New York. "New York is more legendary than ever before," the city's former mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, said, choosing his words carefully. Riot squads will remain close to hand and New York's police commissioner has promised his forces will arrest demonstrators for even the most minor of public order infractions. The 4,000 police on stand-by have so far only arrested five people, though more protests are expected in the coming days. However there were mainly peaceful protests and debates over the economic outlook.

World Social Forum

The World Social Forum - a gathering of anti-globalisation groups in Porto Alegre, southern Brazil - try to develop an alternative to the policies being discussed at the World Economic Forum in New York. The 26,000 delegates - and many more observers from around the world - are to spend three days debating controls on international money markets, the scrapping of the World Trade Organisation, and new forms of participatory democracy. It's the anti-globalisation movement's first big gathering since the 11 September attacks in the United States. Delegates are also keen to voice their opposition to Washington's "war" on terror. Packed like sardines into three separate auditoriums with video links between them, almost 10,000 delegates listened to the keynote address, 'A world without war is possible'.

They heard American linguist and left wing anarchist Noam Chomsky explain why he personally believes that the kind of globalisation defended by the World Economic Forum in New York and the bombing of Afghanistan are linked by a common disregard for the majority of the world's population. Perhaps - perhaps not - there are perhaps not overwhelmingly much facts and analysis behind Noam C's statements in this case. Anyway Chomsky is only talking on behalf of himself in the terrorism and economical debate, seemingly not very well into updated anarchist economics and not much of a strategical thinker on the terrorist question. He is in these questions generally not very representative for the main stream anarchist point of view presented by the broad based AI's Conference on terrorism presented in IJ@ 4 (31). Thus, despite the applause, his keynote address gave little idea of how this vast, disparate gathering will set about achieving what it has set as its main goal - to move the anti-globalisation movement beyond mere protest towards formulating concrete alternatives. Everyone here - and that means many more than the 26,000 officially registered - seems convinced that, in the words of the conference slogan, another world is possible. The job of literally hundreds of plenary sessions, seminars and workshops during the coming days to flesh out what that other world might look like, did however not work out very well..

The range of views represented, in addition to the very leftist and quite private anarchist point of view of Chomsky, stretched from the many shades of the Marxist left, through an array of single issue campaigns and non-governmental organisations, to such more or less socialdemocrat, populist and/or liberal stalwarts as United Nations human rights commissioner Mary Robinson, former Portuguese premier Mario Soares, and half a dozen ministers from Lionel's Jospin's government in France. Many around the world were waiting in hope or intrepidation to see what all these come up with. But they were of course waiting in vain.

While the world's economic leaders meet in New York, their opponents kicked off their rival conference with a display of music, dance and slogans against US military actions and capitalist globalisation. The World Social Forum - first held in the city last year - grew out of the mass protests and street battles with police in cities such as Seattle and Prague. But it is now having to redefine its aims and tactics in the wake of the 11 September attacks on America. Last year the main theme was how to stop the spread of America's wide free trade agreement. Many argued that free trade as defined by those with power undermines local democratic institutions in favour of multi-national corporations. "Neo-mercantilism is however no alternative", says the anarchists.

Global 'control'

While this aspect is still very much on the agenda, many this year are more concerned about stopping war. "Either we will have a world without wars, or we will not have a world," writer and key note speaker Noam Chomsky told delegates at the conference. The anarchist Conference says to this slogan: " Chomsky is exaggerating. Wars and armed struggles have been going on in all of the history of mankind, without the world has been going under. That we should work for peace and against terrorism are however necessities, also armed struggle against terrorism when necessary." Many at the forum are also saying that the 11 September have made things more difficult. "Through history there has never been a terrorist act which has helped the left," complained Luis Ignacio da Silva, or Lula, the leader and presidential candidate for Brazil's Workers Party, which is hosting the forum. He condemned both the attacks and the US response, saying that the Bush administration should have used political methods to punish those responsible rather than going to war."Lula seems quite naive on these matters", said the Conference on terrorism. Mr Chomsky went even further, accusing the United States and its allies of using 11 September as a way of undermining opponents and ruthlessly extending control round the globe. "This may in the future be a problem if things are going out of hand, but so far the broad based coalition struggling against terrorism shows no sign of such a development, and thus the warning seems a bit exaggerated", the Conference says. "The message is that we, the powerful, will pursue our own agendas even more relentlessly than before, while you, the rest of the world, are supposed to be quiet and submissive and obedient and not raise your voices," Chomsky said, while urging people to not pay heed to such sentiments. " So far the armed and other struggle against al-Qaeda and their supporters shows no significant signs of such a development", the Conference says, expressing the main stream anarchist point of view.

Intervention questioned

There is similar concern about growing US intervention in Latin America. The US and the IMF are now laying down the rules for bankrupt Argentina to get vital aid during the worst economic and social crisis of the country's history. However, there is alarm that the United States has branded the FARC guerrillas in Colombia as a terrorist organisation and appears to be considering more direct intervention in the decades-old civil war. "My hope last year was that the people of the United States (would) stop the plans of war," said Colombian peasant leader Hector Mondragon. "But after 11 September, I think this is impossible. The activists for peace are a minority in the United States where there is a nationalistic war hysteria." He himself lives in hiding much of the time after repeated death threats from the police and paramilitary groups. He said that many of his colleagues have been murdered. "To blame the "Great Satan" (USA) (and perhaps also the "Small Satan"(Jews)?) of the new problems in South America sounds a bit like al-Qaeda, although USA has a bad historical record in some countries there in the past. There is as far as we know no proof USA is significant to blame for the problems in Argentina and Colombia." - the Conference says.

Violence condemned

While the US "war", ore more correct - the broad based antiterrorist-coalitions armed and other struggle - against terrorism has heightened fears at Porto Alegre, it has also made it harder to hold mass protests against the same institutions attacked by Osama Bin Laden, especially if they lead to violent confrontations with police. This year organisers of the forum are making a clear effort to distance themselves from all types of violence. Guerrilla groups such as Colombia's FARC or the Basque separatists ETA have not been invited. Authoritarian "wannabe libertarians", wrongly called "anarchists", who have led street battles at a number of recent world summits are also not taking part. "This is a peaceful movement and we cannot accept anything other than that," said organiser Maria Luisa Mendonca.

Concrete proposals?

The conference is being attended by hundreds of non government organisations: aid groups, church leaders, environmentalists, women's organisations, trades unions, political parties and others. With such a disparity of voices, there will be no attempt to produce a final unifying document. Rather on each of the four days the main debates will be summarised. However many are keen to this year come up with concrete proposals which can form the centre of future campaigns, and they will no doubt judge the forum's success on these grounds. The main stream anarchism on these matters was not represented at the forum, and would probably had no influence on this mainly dogmatic marxist forum. No broad based concrete proposals to solve the problems were put up.

IIFOR comments

IIFOR researchers say: "Without real anarchist economics and efficient and fair demand management the economies will never reach full employment and maximal welfare for the people". The WEF delegates confront two complementary but contrasting ideas: On the one hand, the so called "war against terror" has thrown into sharp relief the fragility of the way the world works - and, say some of the global elite in attendance, the need to bridge the ever-widening chasm between rich and poor. But the parlous state of the world economy is also concentrating the minds of attendees on how to dig their countries (and companies), out of the economical depression hole, with large unemployment and bureaucracy costs in general, in which they find themselves. To give more money to the poor is of course nice, but it will not solve the main problem, starvation, because people need food and not money, and the total food production in the world, which usually mainly is eaten, is not very much influenced by reducing debt or increasing aid.

The IIFOR researchers say more aid and cut in foreign debt will not solve the main problem, i.e. death by starvation and related illnesses, unless total food production is better balanced vis--vis the size of the world's population. People cannot eat money or manufacturing goods, and more education or medicine will not do the starving less hungry, because the total food production rules (and is approximately proportional with) the world population. Thus, the problem with the gap between rich and poor cannot be solved without massive birthcontrol in the overpopulated, poor, areas, combined with large real investments, also in food production, but within ecological limits, free contracts - not slavecontracts, etc. The reason for this, also in a terrorism context, is discussed in IJ@ 4 (31) chapter IX.

The Forum is seen also by the marxist "anti-globalisation" and "anti-capitalism" protesters as a talking and networking shop for the rich to cement their ascendancy. In the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre a "World Social Forum" is intended to provide a counterpoint to the business-dominated New York summit. The marxists have however no real solution to the problem, as explained in IJ@ 4 (31) chapter IX. 03-10.02.2002. The reports from WSF and WEF indicate no real solutions or plans, because they don't take into account the necessary anarchist economics broadly defined. The WSC is mainly a gathering of authoritarian marxists and (other) "wannabe libertarians", Attac and leftism included, - "fogarchs" more or less rabid "anti-", but not much for anything sound, i.e. progressive anarchist political economy broadly defined, and thus the WSC did not come up with any united and sound proposals for solutions, that must be based on anarchism, not marxism, populism/fascism or liberalism. Thus, the WSF is an equal impotent flop as the WEF in purpose of doing away with the roots of terrorism and powerty.