The World Social Forum's New Project:
"The Network of the World's Social Movements"

By Ezequiel Adamovsky; The Cid Campeador Neighborhood Assembly, Buenos Aires.

A new project has been proposed at the World Social Forum this year. The idea is to build a "Network of the World's Social Movements." The CUT and other Brazilian organizations have already volunteered their services to flesh out its secretariat. The plan is, as the document that is being circulated states, to achieve "a more permanent articulation" between the social movements at the global level. Of course, nobody wants to oppose such an idea, and I believe that an articulation of this type is fundamental to the growth of the "movement of movements." However, I completely disagree with the route that the project is beginning to take. Moreover, I believe that the failure of the coordination of the Argentinean Assemblies presents us with clues as to why this plan is a bad idea. The WSF does not have to create a network of the movements because this network already exists: we have been constructing this network over the last six or seven years. Certainly, this network is still not strong enough, but we have to build upon what already exists before we can create ONE institutionalized network under the WSF's control. If the WSF attempts to domesticate the existing networks, attempts to provide them with a determined center and a single voice, I don't think it will work. Worse yet, the gravest danger is that the attempt will be a serious set back to the efforts to strengthen the networks that already exist. We know that networks are only able to speak through the multiple voices of their nodes. What happens, for example, if a movement disagrees with something asserted by the network that the WSF controls? Can that movement find a space to speak outside the network, a network that pretends to speak for everyone? The WSF project, in the way it is being considered, would check and inhibit contact between the movements rather than enhance the circulation within the network.

Furthermore, my doubts in regard to this project also have to do with the fact that practically none of the social movements has been given the opportunity to discuss it. Rather, it seems as if the decision to go ahead with the project has been taken in advance, by the same organizations that have been controlling the WSF in particular; namely, ATTAC (especially its French contingent), some of the NGO's, the PT and the Brazilian CUT. This is where my doubts increase. Why would the representatives of hierarchical organizations create a structure of coordinated networks, that is to say, a horizontal and decentralized one? The project, such as has been proposed, resembles an attempt to create a new International--hierarchical, centralized, aspiring to represent the totality of the social movements just like the Internationals of the past--rather than a network. Personally, I don't care if the Leninists and Trotskyites still want to establish an International, even after all the failures of the past. It would bother me, however, that they would try to disguise the politics of the past by resorting to the words, the creations and the style of the new movement. People should feel free to create a new International, if that is what they want, but it would be very irritating to see them try to do so by using the World Social Forum, and by appropriating the notion of the network to create something that just amounts to a centralized formal institution, that is to say, the opposite of a network.

If it is really a matter of strengthening the coordination of the networks, then the best way of doing so is by encouraging voluntary and flexible coalitions that allow each and every singular node the freedom to decide the particulars of its actions. Coalitions, by definition, do not represent single individuals or the network in its totality, they only represent those that participate in them. A coalition only lasts as long as it has a job to do, or as long as its members want it to last. Nobody in a coalition desires to assume control or take power because coalitions are temporary and indeterminate. Anyone can call for the formation of a coalition: if the job to be done merits attention, then chances are that many nodes in the network will take part in it. The coalition is not the center of the network, only a temporary crystallization within it; a moment when the unstructured connections of the network cohere in stronger agreements. Once the task has been accomplished the coalition dissolves into the network. And of course, singular nodes may participate in multiple coalitions, and the network will allow for as many coalitions as the singular nodes decide to create.

I think that it is this type of organization, through singular and temporary coalitions, that allows for the articulation of heterogeneous movements without reducing them to a homogeneity, only this type of organization respects multiplicity, the most valuable thing that we have.

Finally, if the WSF wants to be engaged in the coordination of the movements at the global level, a dire necessity, the best thing that it can do is to help particular movements communicate more effectively with the rest. The WSF, for example, could organize the socialization of economic and technical resources between the north and the south. Many of the piquetero groups in our country do not have access to the internet (no computers, in fact, no telephones), and they have no translators to explain the messages that are sent to them from other countries. What can an international network, whether it is decentralized or institutionalized by the WSF, mean to a people with no access to the information or the decision-making processes that constitute it? Concretely? Absolutely nothing. If the WSF manages to channel resources in order to guarantee a fluid connection to all the groups in the south, help to communicate in disparate languages and funds to travel to international reunions, in other words, if it manages to extend the network, then it will have succeeded in a great task. So, on the contrary, to domesticate the network, to create ONE network out of the WSF is the opposite of what we need.

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