The New Global Left:

Movements and Regimes

Street Demonstration, Porto Alegre, Brazil, World Social Forum 2005

Christopher Chase-Dunn, Richard Niemeyer, Preeta Saxena,

Matheu Kaneshiro, James Love and Amanda Spears

Department of Sociology and the Research Working Group on Transnational Social Movements at the Institute for Research on World-Systems (IROWS)

University of California-Riverside

Draft v. 8-16-09 8969 words

Abstract: This paper is part of a larger research project that is examining the nature of the New Global Left in the present period of renewed world revolution. Our research studies the network of transnational social movements that are participating in the World Social Forum process and discusses the relationships between the family of antisystemic transnational movements and the progressive populist regimes that have emerged in Latin America in the last decade – the so-called Pink Tide. Our study uses the results of surveys of attendees of the World Social Forums (WSF) in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2005 and Nairobi, Kenya in 2007 to study the world-system position of eighteen progressive transnational social movements.  We study the differential extent to which the social movements have strengths in the hierarchical zones of the contemporary world-system: the Core, the Semiperiphery and the Periphery).  The geography of the social movements is discussed and the contentious relationships between the movements and the Pink Tide regimes is considered. 

An earlier version was presented at the CRITICAL SOCIOLOGY CONFERENCE Monday, August 10, 2009 The Stanford Court Hotel, 905 California Street, San Francisco. This paper has been translated into Turkish for publication in BirGun, Istanbul, Turkey.
This is IROWS Working Paper #50 available at http://irows.ucr.edu/papers/irows50/irows50.htm

Thanks to Ellen Reese, Christine Petit, Linda Kim, Rebecca Alvarez, Toi Carter and Roy Kwon for their help on this research.


Contemporary global civil society is composed of all the individuals and groups who knowingly orient their political participation toward issues that transcend local and national boundaries and who try to link up with those outside of their own home countries in order to have an impact on local, national and global issues. The New Global Left is that subgroup of global civil society that is critical of neoliberal and capitalist globalization, corporate capitalism and the exploitative and undemocratic structures of global governance (de Sousa Santos 2006). The larger global civil society also includes defenders of global capitalism and of the existing institutions of global governance as well as other challengers of the current global order. The New Global Left is the current incarnation of a constellation of popular forces, social movements, global political parties and progressive national regimes that have contested with the powers-that-be in the world-system for centuries. The existing institutions of global governance have been shaped by the efforts of competing elites to increase their powers and to defend their privileges, but also by the efforts of popular forces and progressive states to challenge the hierarchical institutions, defend workers rights, access to the commons, the rights of women and minorities, the sovereignty of indigenous peoples and to democratize the local, national and global institutions of governance.

            The evolution of the modern world-system --its processes of economic development, the rise and fall of hegemonic core powers, and the waves of globalization and deglobalization -- has been shaped by a series of world revolutions (congeries of local, national and transnational struggles and rebellions that clump together in time) since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century (Arrighi, Hopkins and Wallerstein 1989; Boswell and Chase-Dunn 2000; Chase-Dunn and Niemeyer 2008). The contemporary world revolution is similar to earlier ones, but also different. The research reported in this paper is part of an effort to comprehend the nature of the New Global Left in its world historical context.

            Our conceptualization of the New Global Left includes both civil society entities: individuals, social movement organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but also political parties and progressive national regimes. In this paper we will examine the similarities and differences among movements with regard to where in the world-system their activists reside, and we will discuss the relationships among the movements and the progressive populist regimes that have emerged in Latin America in the last decade. We understand these regimes to be an important part of the New Global Left, though it is well-known that the relationships among the movements and the regimes are both supportive and contentious.

            The boundaries of the progressive forces that have come together in the New Global Left are fuzzy and the process of inclusion and exclusion is ongoing. The rules of inclusion and exclusion that are contained in the Charter of the World Social Forum, though still debated, have not changed much since their formulation in 2001.[1]

            The New Global Left has emerged as resistance to, and a critique of, global capitalism. It is a coalition of social movements that includes old social movements that emerged in the 19th century (labor, anarchism, socialism, communism, feminism, environmentalism, peace, human rights) along with more recent incarnations of these and movements that emerged in the world revolutions of 1968 and 1989 (queer rights, anti-corporate, fair trade, indigenous) and even more recent ones such as the slow food-food rights, global justice-alterglobalization, anti-globalization, health-HIV and alternative media). The explicit focus on the Global South and global justice is somewhat similar to some earlier incarnations of the Global Left, especially the Comintern, the Bandung Conference and the anti-colonial movements. The New Global Left contains remnants and reconfigured elements of earlier Global Lefts, but it is a qualitatively different constellation of forces because:

o      there are new elements,

o      the old movements have been reshaped, and

o      a new technology (the Internet) has been used to try to resolve North/South issues within movements and contradictions among movements.

There has also been a learning process in which the earlier successes and failures of the Global Left are being taken into account in order to not repeat the mistakes of the past. The relations within the family of antisystemic movements and among the populist regimes are both cooperative and competitive. This needs to be brought out into the open in order that the cooperative efforts may be enhanced so that global collective action for restructuring the world-system may be more effective. Our studies are dedicated to this end.

            This paper examines the organizational space of contemporary global social movements in several ways. We are interested in the geography of participation in the New Global Left. We are also studying the network of connections among the family of global social movements. This research is based on the results of comparable surveys of attendees of two World Social Forums (Porto Alegre in 2005 and Nairobi in 2007).[2]

            There is a large scholarly literature on networks, coalitions and alliances among social movements (e.g. Carroll and Ratner 1996; Krinsky and Reese 2006; Obach 2004; Reese, Petit, and Meyer 2008; Rose 2000; Van Dyke 2003). Our study is theoretically motivated by this literature as well as by the world-systems analyses of world revolutions mentioned above and Antonio Gramsci’s concepts of ideological hegemony, counter-hegemonic movements and the formation of historical blocks [Gill 2000; Carroll and Ratner 1996; and Carroll 2006a, 2006b].
From whence cometh the New Global Left?

Not surprisingly, the locations of the meetings have the largest effect on who attends the global gatherings of the World Social Forum (WSF). So when the WSF was held in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2005 most of the attendees were from Brazil (See Figure 1). More came from other Latin American countries than from other areas of the Global South, but there were fewer from Africa than from South Asia, and the only 2005 attendees from the Peoples Republic of China were from Hong Kong.

            Figure 1: Home places of those attending the WSF in Porto Alegre, 2005

            The WSF05 was rather well attended from both the U.S. and from Europe. The sparse showing from Africa and the focus of the WSF process on the Global South were the main reasons why the 2007 WSF was held in Nairobi, Kenya.

Figure 2: Home places of those attending the WSF in Nairobi, 2007

            Geography and the “tyranny of distance” (transportation costs) were also evident in the pattern of attendance at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya in 2007.  The majority of attendees were from East Africa, and the attendance from the rest of Africa was better than it had been when the Social Forum meetings were held elsewhere. The U.S. and Europe continued their strong participation, but attendance from South Asia fell off, and from China things did not improve in terms of numbers of attendees. But both the Peoples Republic of China and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam sent delegations to Nairobi and hosted booths on the circus of Nasarani Soccer Stadium where the WSF events were held.

 

The core/periphery hierarchy and transnational movements

            Contemporary popular discourse about global inequalities and justice uses the terms “Global North and Global South.” This replaced an earlier terminology that referred to the “Third World” which was often conceived as populated by backward peoples and underdeveloped countries. Our theoretical approach analyzes the contemporary world-system as a stratified structure -- a multidimensional nested hierarchy of socially constructed inequalities that is analogous in some ways with the stratification systems within national societies. The hierarchy is organized as a set of economic and military power differentials among national states and the peoples in different parts of the world. Some earlier world-systems also had core/periphery hierarchies, but in the modern Europe-centered system the core/periphery hierarchy was originally constituted as a set of colonial empires in which most of the European core states had formal legal power over regions in the Americas, Africa and Asia. The colonial empires were abolished in waves of decolonization, but the core/periphery hierarchy became restructure as an unequal division of labor and a set of international economic institutions that perpetuate neocolonial relations. The core/periphery hierarchy has evolved and there has been upward and downward mobility within it. It is fundamental to the logic of development of the system (Wallerstein 1974; Chase-Dunn 1998).

            In its evolution the core/periphery hierarchy has moved from a set of unequal relations among “mother countries” and their colonies, to unequal relations among formally sovereign national states, toward a set of global class relations.  There has been a global class system all along, but waves of globalization and resistance have increasingly formed intraclass links so that the global hierarchy has moved in the direction of a global class system of the kind described in the works of William I. Robinson (2004, 2008). The core/periphery (c/p) hierarchy has always been a complicated nested system with core/periphery relations existing within countries as well as between them. But it has always been possible to assign national societies to the three zones of the c/p hierarchy: the core, the periphery and the semiperiphery. And this is still possible today despite the move toward a global class system. There are still significant advantages to being a worker in the core and disadvantages to being a worker in the periphery despite the move toward a global class system. 

Jeffrey Kentor’s (2000, 2005) quantitative measure of the position of national societies in the world-system remains the best operationalization because it included GNP per capita, military capability, and economic dominance/dependence (See Appendix). We have trichotomized Kentor’s combined continuous indicator of world-system position into core, periphery and semiperiphery categories for purposes of our research. The core category is nearly equivalent to the World Bank’s “high income” classification, and is what most people mean by the term “Global North.” We divide the “Global South” into two categories: the semiperiphery and the periphery. The semiperiphery includes large countries (e.g. Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, India, China) and smaller countries with middle levels of GNP per capita (e.g. Taiwan, South Korea, South Africa, Israel, etc.).  Brazil is in the semiperiphery. Kenya and most of the countries in Africa are in the periphery.  An earlier study of the political attitudes of Social Forum attendees has found some important differences between those from the periphery and those from the semiperiphery (Reese et al 2007).

Figure 3: The global hierarchy of national societies: core, semiperiphery and periphery

            Figure 3 depicts the global hierarchy of national societies divided into the three world-system zones. The core countries are in dark black, the peripheral countries are gray, and the semiperipheral countries in the middle of the global hierarchy are in cross-hatch. The visually obvious thing is that North America and Europe are mostly core, Latin America is mostly semiperipheral, Africa is mostly peripheral and Asia is a mix of core, periphery and semiperiphery.

            The comparative world-systems perspective developed by Chase-Dunn and Hall (1997) suggests that semiperipheral regions have been unusually fertile sources of innovations and have implemented social organizational forms that transformed the scale and logic of world-systems. This is termed the hypothesis of “semiperipheral development.”  This hypothesis suggests that attention should be paid to events and developments within the semiperiphery, both the emergence of social movements and the emergence of national regimes. The World Social Forum process is global in extent but its entry upon the world stage has been primarily in semiperipheral Brazil and India. And the “Pink Tide” process in Latin America, led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has seen the emergence of populist regimes in several Latin American countries in the last decade. We want to pay special attention to these two phenomena and to their interaction with one another because of the hypothesis of semiperipheral development.

The geographic location and the sponsoring regime have also greatly influenced attendance and the flavor of the Social Forum meetings we are studying. In Brazil the WSF is strongly supported by the Brazilian Labor Party, whose leader, Lula, is the President of Brazil.  In Nairobi the Kenyan government saw the WSF meeting mainly as an opportunity to promote tourism. One of the official sponsors of the WSF meeting in Kenya was Novatel, a cell phone company. The regime in power in Kenya was not very sympathetic with the radical political goals of the World Social Forum.

 

 

 

Number of WSF05 Participants

Percentage of WSF05 Participants Porto Alegre

Percentage of world population in 2005

Number of WSF07 Participants

Percentage of WSF07 Participants Nairobi

Core

125

20%

13%

146

29%

Semiperiphery

451

72%

55%

78

15%

Periphery

49

8%

32%

283

56%

Total

625

 

6,451,392,455

557

 

Table 1: Residence of WSF attendees by world-system zone

             At the Porto Alegre WSF in 2005 the core was somewhat over-represented in terms of proportions of the world population (20% at the meeting but 13% of the world population, see Table 1 above). The semiperiphery was over-represented because Brazil, the site of the meeting, is a semiperipheral country and is adjacent to semiperipheral Argentina (see the Appendix for our categorization of countries into world-system zones.)  The periphery, which contains 32 percent of the world’s population, was seriously under-represented at Porto Alegre (8%). As mentioned above, this was an important part of the rationale for holding the 2007 World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. Table 1 also shows the distribution of attendees at the WSF07 in Nairobi across world-system zones. At the Nairobi meeting the periphery is over-represented (56%), rather than under-represented as it was in Porto Alegre, because Kenya and the surrounding countries in East Africa are in the world-system periphery. The core countries at the Nairobi meeting were ironically even more over-represented (29%) than they had been in Porto Alegre (20%). The semiperiphery at the Nairobi meeting was seriously under-represented. Only 15% of the attendees at the WSF07 were from the semiperiphery, which has 55% of the world’s population.[3]

            The eighteen transnational social movements that we studied in 2005 are listed in Table 2 below. These are not social movement organizations. Rather they are key orienting ideas around which individuals, social movement organizations, advocacy networks and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) structure their political activities. This list was originally constructed based on our reading of the social science reports of activities at the World Social Forum and knowledge of the emerging global justice movement. The item in the WSF05 survey is as follows:

1) Check all of the following movements with which you:

(a) strongly identify:                                               (b) are actively involved in:

oAlternative media/culture                                                      oAlternative media/culture

oAnarchist                                                                               oAnarchist

oAnti-corporate                                                                       oAnti-corporate

oAnti-globalization                                                                  oAnti-globalization

oAlternative Globalization/Global Justice                              oAlternative Globalization/Global Justice

oHuman Rights/Antiracism                                                     oHuman Rights/Antiracism

oCommunist                                                                            oCommunist

oEnvironmental                                                                       oEnvironmental

oFair Trade/Trade Justice                                                        oFair Trade/Trade Justice

oGay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer Rights                 oGay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer Rights  

oHealth/HIV                                                                            oHealth/HIV

oIndigenous                                                                             oIndigenous

oLabor                                                                                     oLabor

oNational Sovereignty/National Liberation                             oNational Sovereignty/National Liberation

oPeace/Anti-war                                                                      oPeace/Anti-war

oFood Rights/Slow Food                                                         oFood Rights/Slow Food

oSocialist                                                                                 oSocialist

oWomen's/Feminist                                                                 oWomen's/Feminist

oOther(s), Please list _______________________                oOther(s), Please list _______________________

 

The results reported here are based on the responders that indicated “active involvement” in the movements. In other analyses we have gotten quite similar results using the “strongly identify” responses (Chase-Dunn et al 2007).

At the WSF in Nairobi, Kenya we used most of these same movements, but we separated human rights from anti-racism and we added nine additional movements (development, landless, immigrant, religious, housing, jobless, open source, and autonomous, and this same larger list was used at the United States Social Forum in Atlanta in July of 2007.  Most of our results reported here use only the original list of 18, with human rights and anti-racism combined as they were in the 2005 survey so that we can compare the Nairobi results with the Porto Alegre results.

The size distribution of the WSF05 movement selections indicates that the highest percentages of selections were made of human rights/anti-racism (12%), environmental (11%), alternative media/culture (10%) and peace (9%).  Some activists refuse to participate in the World Social Forum (or have held counter-events) and some others (e.g. those advocating armed struggle) are excluded by the WSF Charter. These factors might account for the small numbers of some of the movements (e.g. anarchists and communists). It is said that anarchists do not fill out questionnaires, but we had very few refusals and 20 of the Porto Alegre respondents and 43 of the Nairobi respondents indicated that they were actively involved anarchists. 

Movement Locations in the Core/Periphery Hierarchy

We use information from the 2005 and 2007 surveys on individual’s declaration of active involvement in social movements and their home countries to study the world-system position of movements. The hypothesis of semiperipheral development suggests special attention to those movements that derive a large portion of their support from the semiperiphery. Each transnational social movement has to confront the political implications of the location of its supporters in the core/periphery hierarchy because participation in the World Social Forum process involves a commitment to global justice. Every social movement has the problem that its constituents may have somewhat different interests and concerns depending upon where they are coming from in the global hierarchy. Some movements, such as the feminists, have made major efforts to confront the problems of north/south differences among women (see Moghadam 2005).  Our research compares the world-system locations of participants to the actual world population distribution and to home places of the whole group of attendees at the WSF meetings shown in Table 1 above. And we examine the relative coreness, peripherality and semiperipherality of the eighteen social movements in the 2005 and 2007 WSF surveys. This allows us to see which movements are different from other movements in terms of the percentage of their activists who come from the core, the periphery and the semiperiphery.


 

 

Percentage of WSF05 Attendees

Porto Alegre

 

Percentage of WSF05 Movement Averages

Porto Alegre

 

Percentage of world population in 2005

Percentage of WSF07 Attendees

Nairobi

 

 

Percentage of WSF07 Movement Averages

Nairobi

 

Core

20%

19%

13%

29%

35%

Semiperiphery

72%

74%

55%

15%

15%

Periphery

8%

9%

32%

56%

50%

Total

625

623

6,451,392,455

557

612

            Table 2: Percentages of Attendees and Movement Averages in 2005 and 2007

            Table 2 shows the percentages of attendees and the movement averages to see how the overall movement distributions compare with the world population and with the general distribution of attendees in terms of how many come from the different world-system zones. The percentages for attendees are based on the total samples of participants for each WSF. The percentages of movements are averages of the world-system position home place of those who indicated that they are actively involved in one or more of the eighteen social movements.[4] In general the percentages of attendees and movements are quite similar, but there are some interesting differences as well.  At the Nairobi WSF in 2007 the coreness of movements was even greater than the coreness of attendees in general (35% vs. 29%). Ironically the average coreness movement level at the Nairobi meeting was 35%, compared with 13% of the world’s population that comes from the core and 19% average movement coreness in 2005. This may not be surprising since attendance at a World Social Forum conference for those coming from a long distance is expensive. The Nairobi meeting succeeded in attracting a lot more movement participants from the periphery (8% in Porto Alegre, 56% in Nairobi), but the level of coreness was also significantly higher at the Nairobi meeting. The semiperiphery was over-represented in Porto Alegre because the meeting was held in Brazil, but greatly under-represented in Nairobi.


 

 

2005

2007

 

Core

SemiP.

Periph.

Core

SemiP

Periph

Alternative Media

 

X

 

 

 

 

Anarchist

-

-

-

-

-

-

Anti-Corporate

-

-

-

-

-

-

Anti- Globalization

 

 

 

 

X

 

Alternative Globalization

X

 

 

 

 

 

Human Rights/ Anti-Racism

-

-

-

-

-

-

Communist

-

-

-

-

-

-

Environmental

 

X

 

 

 

 

Fair Trade

-

-

-

-

-

-

Food Rights

-

-

-

-

-

-

Queer

-

-

-

-

-

-

Health HIV

 

 

 

 

 

X

Indigenous

 

 

 

 

X

 

Labor

-

-

-

-

-

-

National Liberation

-

-

-

-

-

-

Peace

X

 

 

X

 

 

Socialist

-

-

-

-

-

-

Feminist

-

-

-

-

-

-

Table 3: Coreness, Peripheralness and Semiperipheralness of Social Movements -- significantly HIGHER than the Overall Mean

Tables 3 and 4 show the results of our effort to compare eighteen movements in terms of differences in the geographic distribution of their activists. These results are derived from Tables A2, A3 and A4 in the Appendix. Those tables show the averages of all the movements and the proportions of the activists in each movement that come from the core, the semiperiphery and the periphery.  Table 3 above shows those movements that were significantly above the mean for all movements in their coreness, semiperipherality or peripherality, and Table 4 shows those movements that were significantly below the mean. So Tables 3 and 4 summarize the results shown in Tables A-2, A-3 and A-4.

These tables show that most of the movements are typical in terms of the proportions of their activists that come from the core, the semiperiphery and the periphery. In Table 3 eleven of the eighteen movements are typical in the sense that their proportions are not larger than the average proportions to a statistically significant extent (p=.05, two-tailed test).  Table 4 shows that twelve out of eighteen movements are not significantly lower than the average. So, most of the movements reflect the geographical patterns of attendees as a whole.  The feminist movement is entirely normal in its distribution of coreness, peripherality and semiperiperality.  We have already mentioned the huge efforts that have been made within the feminist movement to bridge the North/South gap. This effort was also aided by resistance to neoliberalism, which made issues that had previously tended to divide feminists from the core from feminists from the non-core more salient to both (Moghadam 2005).

But Tables 3 and 4 show that there are some instances in which movements are significantly different in the geographical origin of their activists.  Table 3 shows those movements that are significantly above the mean. In 2005 at Porto Alegre the Alternative Media movement topic had significantly more members from the semiperiphery than did the other movements. And the Anti-globalization movement topic had proportionally more activists from the semiperiphery at the 2007 meeting in Nairobi. The Alternative Globalization movement topic had an unusual proportion of activists from the core in 2005. Environmentalism is often understood to be mainly a concern of middle class people from the core, but Table 3 shows that, as represented by proportions of attendees at the WSF environmentalists do not show unusually high percentages of coreness relative to other movements. Rather environmentalism had proportionally more activists from the semiperiphery in 2005 at Porto Alegre. We think this is due to the strength of environmentalism in Brazil.  We also found that a significantly larger number of environmentalists at the Porto Alegre meeting indicated their racial identity as Black (Reese et al 2008). The city of Porto Alegre has a strong recycling organization and the famous green city of Curitiba is also in Brazil. Thus the image of environmentalism as a northern movement is challenged by our results. On the other hand, this unusual semiperipherality of environmentalism was not evident at the Nairobi meeting. So it may be Brazil, rather than the semiperiphery in general that accounts for the 2005 result.

The Health/HIV movement topic displayed an unusual degree of peripherality at the Nairobi meeting in 2007. This probably resulted from the location of the meeting in Africa where the AIDS epidemic has been so disastrous. The indigenous movement topic was unusually semiperipheral in 2007. We are not sure what accounts for this. (are the indigenistas from Africa? Or from India?) Indigenism has an emerging totemic status in the global justice movement (as signaled by the Zapatista rebellion in Mexico and choosing of Belem in Amazonian Brazil as the site of the WSF09). The global indigenista movement asserts that “Another World Exists” and that indigenism has always been around.[5]

            The strongest finding of an unusual geographic distribution of movement activists is for the peace/anti-war topic. The peace/anti-war movement is unusually represented by activists from the core in both 2005 and 2007, and in both years only a small number of peace movement activists were from the semiperiphery (see Table 4 below). This is probably a consequence of the wars waged by the United States, Britain and the “coalition of the willing” in Iraq and Afghanistan during this period. The huge peace demonstrations that occurred in 2003 were mainly located in core countries and the salience of the anti-war issue is probably due to opposition within core countries to this perceived illegitimate use of military power. The largest demonstrations were in the U.S. and Britain, the leading powers that intervened in Afghanistan and Iraq.


 

 

2005

2007

 

Core

SemiP

Periph.

Core

SemiP

Periph

Alternative Media

X

 

X

 

 

 

Anarchist

-

-

-

-

-

-

Anti-Corporate

-

-

-

-

-

-

Anti- Globalization

-

-

-

-

-

-

Alternative Globalization

 

X

 

 

 

 

Human Rights/ Anti-Racism

-

-

-

-

-

-

Communist

 

 

 

X

 

 

Environmental

-

-

-

-

-

-

Fair Trade

 

X

 

 

 

 

Food Rights

-

-

-

-

-

-

Queer

-

-

-

-

-

-

Health HIV

 

 

 

X

X

 

Indigenous

-

-

-

-

-

-

Labor

-

-

-

-

-

-

National Liberation

-

-

-

-

-

-

Peace

 

X

 

 

X

 

Socialist

-

-

-

-

-

-

Feminist

-

-

-

-

-

-

 Table 4: Coreness, Semiperipherality and Peripherality of Social Movements-- significantly LOWER than the Overall Mean

 

Table 4 shows that the Alternative Media/Culture topic displayed a relatively low level of both coreness and peripherality at the Porto Alegre meeting, corresponding to the unusually high degree of semiperipherality shown in Table 3. And Alternative Globalization had an unusually low degree of semiperipherality in Porto Alegre corresponding with its unusually high degree of coreness shown in Table 3. Communists display unusually low coreness in 2007. And Fair Trade activists were unusually likely to not be from the semiperiphery in 2005. Health/HIV activists were unusually unlikely to be from the core and the semiperiphery in 2007, corresponding with their over-representation from the periphery in that year.  The most important finding from our effort to investigate the degree to which movements differ with respect to their degree of support from the core, periphery and semiperiphery is that there are not many differences of this kind. Like the attendees in general, the core is over-represented and the periphery is under-represented.  Deviations are mainly due to the geographical location of the WSF meetings.  The single consistent exception is the Peace/Antiwar movement topic, which displays unusual coreness at the both the Porto Alegre and the Nairobi meetings.

The Pink Tide

            The World Social Forum (WSF) is not the only political force that demonstrates the rise of the New Global Left. The WSF is embedded within a larger socio-historical context that is challenging the hegemony of global capital. It was this larger context that facilitated the founding of the WSF in 2001. The anti-IMF protests of the 1980s and the Zapatista rebellion of 1994 were early harbingers of the current world revolution that challenges the neoliberal capitalist order.

            History proceeds in a series of waves. Capitalist expansions ebb and flow, and egalitarian and humanistic counter-movements emerge in a cyclical dialectical struggle. Polanyi(1944) called this the double-movement (Polanyi 1944), while others have termed it a “spiral of capitalism and socialism.” This spiral of capitalism and socialism describes the undulations of the global economy that has alternated between expansive commodification throughout the global economy, followed by resistance movements on behalf of workers and other oppressed groups (Boswell and Chase-Dunn 2000). The Reagan/Thatcher neoliberal capitalist globalization project extended the power of transnational capital. This project has reached its ideological and material limits. It has increased inequality within and between countries, exacerbated rapid urbanization in the Global South (so-called Planet of Slums), attacked the welfare state and institutional protections for the poor, and led to global financial collapse. The globalization project was crisis management because of overaccumulation in core manufacturing and a declining profit rate in the 1970s and 1980s. Obvious limitations of the expansion of financialization led certain neoconservative elements of the global elite to support “imperial over-reach” an effort to use military power to control the global oil supply as a means to prop up declining U.S. economic hegemony. The economic meltdown of 2008 may seal the end of the current phase of capital expansion of both the neoliberal and the neoconservative political projects.

            A global countermovement has arisen to challenge neoliberalism and neoconservatism and  decades of capitalist expansion. This progressive countermovement is composed of increasingly transnational social movements and a growing number of populist governments in Latin America – the so-called Pink Tide. The Pink Tide is composed of populist leftist regimes that have come to state power in Latin America, seeking dramatic structural transformation of the global economy (See Table 5).


 

            Country

Pink Tide

Year

Colombia

0

 

Costa Rica

0

 

Dominican Republic

0

 

French Guiana

0

 

Guadeloupe

0

 

Guyana

0

1992

Haiti

0

1996

Martinique

0

 

Mexico

0

 

Netherlands Antilles

0

 

Panama

0

 

Puerto Rico

0

 

Saint Martin

0

 

Cuba

2

1959

Venezuela

2

1998

Belize

1

1993

Chile

2

2000

Aruba

1

2001

Brazil

2

2002

Argentina

2

2003

Ecuador

2

2003

Uruguay

2

2005

Bolivia

2

2006

Nicaragua

2

2006

Peru

2

2006

Guatemala

1

2007

Honduras

1

2007

Paraguay

2

2008

El Salvador

2

2009

Table 5: Pink Tide status of Latin American countries: 0= not Pink Tide; 1= Partial Pink Tide,

            2= Full-Blown Pink Tide

            An important difference between these and many earlier Leftist regimes in the non-core is that they have come to head up governments by means of popular elections rather than by violent revolutions. This signifies an important difference from earlier world revolutions. The spread of electoral democracy to the non-core has been part of a larger political incorporation of former colonies into the European interstate system. This evolutionary development of the global political system has mainly been caused by the industrialization of the non-core and the growing size of the urban working class in non-core countries (Silver 2003). While much of the democratization of the Global South has taken the form of “polyarchy” in which elites play musical chairs (Robinson 1996), in some countries Most of the Pink Tide Leftist regimes have been voted into power. This is a very different form of regime formation than the revolutionary road taken by most earlier Leftist regimes in the non-core.

            The ideologies of the Pink Tide regimes have been both socialist and indigenist, with different mixes in different countries. The acknowledged leader of the Pink Tide as a distinctive brand of leftist populism is the Bolivarian Revolution led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. But various other forms of progressive political ideologies are also heading up states in Latin America. Indigenist and socialist Evo Morales is president of Bolivia.The Fidelistas in Cuba remain in power. President Lula and the Brazilian Workers Party are still important players. In Chile social democrats are in power. Sandinistas in Nicaragua and FMLN in El Salvador are elected leaders. And several European-style social democrats lead some of the Caribbean islands. These regimes are supported by the mobilization of historically subordinate populations including the indigenous, poor, and women. The rise of the voiceless and the challenge to neoliberal capitalism seems to have its epicenter in Latin America. While there are important differences of emphasis among these regimes, they have much in common, and as a whole they constitute an important bloc of the New Global Left. We agree with William I. Robinson’s assessment of the Bolivarian Revolution and its potential to lead the global working class in a renewed challenge to transnational capitalism (Robinson 2008).

            Latin America has a unique and complex history in which class and ethnic struggles within countries have repeatedly intersected with the world historical context. The conquest of the Americas featured the decimation of indigenous populations and their enserfment in systems of agricultural land-tenure and the expansion of a slave-based plantation economy in which a huge number of Africans were forcibly relocated to the New World. This was an important part of what.Karl Marx called “the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist accumulation.” It is safe to generalize that the beginnings of the post-Columbian Americas were characterized by the primitive accumulation of native and African populations. In other words, capital has deep roots in the underdevelopment of Latin America, and the legacies of primitive accumulation continue to leave large masses of poor eking out their living. Although each country has had its own unique history, important commonalities that these countries share include indigenous rebellions, slave revolts, anti-colonial struggles for independence, concomitant wars and altercations between authoritarianism and democracy, the commodification of natural resources, competing commercial interests, foreign intervention (often at the behest of core capital), and leftist popular waves.  In other words, Latin America has been a battleground of global and internal class conflict since 1492..

            The development of states in Latin America featured the rise of the rich. Landed elites, national capitalists and military personnel jockeyed for power and attempted to develop their respective countries and to protect existing privileges. With the passage of time, important oppressed segments of the population have continued to struggle for recognition, engaging in waves of politicization. A populist wave surged through Latin America during the 1950s and 1960s, finally representing people as opposed to elites. These mass movements were decisive turns to the left. Another major event in this time period was the Cuban Revolution, allowing for Fidel Castro to set up a centralized socialist economy 90 miles from Florida. Waves of leftist regimes rose (or attempted to rise) throughout Latin America, including El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Guatemala and Colombia, all of which fell prey to U.S.-backed overthrows and were replaced by comprador elites.

            Thus one sees waves between the spread of capital domination and the struggle for popular rights throughout the history of many countries in Latin America. Capital seemed to have won, particularly throughout the Reagan years. Then a former military general won the votes of the poor in Venezuela. A team including socialists became elected in Chile. A member of the working party came to power in Brazil. A brave president in Argentina finally stood up against the demands of the International Monetary Fund and Wall Street.

            Figure 4: The Pink Tide in Latin America (dots= full blown Pink Tide; cross-hatch=           partial Pink             Tide)

            As one can see from Figure 4, the rise of the left has engulfed nearly all of South America and a considerable portion of Central America. Why is Latin America the site of both populist Leftist regimes and transnational social movements that contest neoliberal capitalist globalization? We suggest that part of the explanation is that Latin America as a world region has so many  semiperipheral countries. These countries have more options to pursue independent strategies than the overwhelmingly peripheral countries of Africa do. But some of the Pink Tide countries in Latin America are also peripheral. There is a regional effect that does not seem to be operating in either Africa or Asia. Another reason why the Pink Tide phenomenon is concentrated in Latin America is that the foremost proponent of the neoliberal policies has been the United States, and Latin America has long been the non-core “back yard” of the United States. Many, if not most, of the people of Latin America think of the United States as the “collossus of the North.” The U.S. has been the titular hegemon during the period of the capitalist globalization project, and so the political challenge to neoliberalism is strongest in that region of the world in which the U.S. has long played the role of neocolonial core. Both Africa and Asia have a more complicated relationship with former colonial powers.

            The outspoken Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has led the way, a task made easier by the massive Venezuelan oil reserves. The Banco del Sur (Bank of the South), for example, has been joined by many Pink Tide nations and seeks to replace the IMF in development projects throughout the Americas. The goal is to be able to become independent of the capitalist financial institutions headquartered in the U.S., which would serve as an “alternative path” for those not desiring to heed to the IMF’s wishes.

            The very existence of the World Social Forum owes much to the Pink Tide regime in Brazil. The Brazilian transition from authoritarian rule in the 1980s politicized and mobilized civil society, contributing to the elections of leftist presidents. One of these presidents includes Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a sociologist who was one of the founders of dependency theory. Porto Alegre had been a stronghold for the Worker’s Party (founded by the future Pink Tide president Luis Lula Ignacio da Silva). It was in Porto Alegre that the World Social Forum was born, with the indispensible help from the Brazilian Worker’s Party. The political trend of the Pink Tide set the context and conditions for the rise of the World Social Forum – the two are inextricably linked. 

            We seek to comprehend the World Social Forum in the context of larger socio-historical processes. The World Social Forum is part of the larger trend that is attempting to counter the global hegemony of capital. The WSF seeks to play a helpful role bringing about greater rights for workers and other oppressed people in both the South and the North.. The World Social Forum is an arena for transnational social movements.

            The relationships between the progressive transnational social movements and the regimes of the Pink Tide have been both collaborative and contentious. We have already noted the important role played by the Brazilian Workers Party in the creation of the World Social Forum. But many of the activists in the movements see involvement in struggles to gain and maintain power in existing states as a trap that is likely to simply reproduce the injustices of the past. These kinds of concerns have been raised by anarchists since the nineteenth century, but autonomists from Italy, Spain, Germany and France echo these concerns. And the Zapatista movement in Southern Mexico, one of the sparks that ignited the global justice movement against neoliberal capitalism, has steadfastly refused to participate in Mexican electoral politics. Indeed the New Left led by students in the World Revolution of 1968 championed a similar critical approach to the old parties and states of the Left as well as involvment in electoral politics (Wallerstein 1984). This anti-politics-as-usual has become embodied in the Charter of the World Social Forum, where representatives of parties and governments are theoretically proscribed from sending representatives to the WSF meetings.

            The older Leftist organizations and movements are often depicted as hopelessly Eurocentric and undemocratic by the neo-anarchists and autonomists, who instead prefer participatory and horizontalist network forms of democracy and eschew leadership by prominent intellectuals as well as by existing heads of state. Thus when Lula, Chavez and Morales have come to address the WSF, crowds have gathered to protest their presence.  The organizers of the WSF have found various compromises, such as locating the speeches of Pink Tide politicians at adjacent, but separate, venues.  An exception to this kind of contention is the support that European autonomists and anarchists have provided to Evo Morales’s regime in Bolivia (e.g. Iglesias Turrion 200x).    

            Latin America has been the epicenter of the countermovement against neoliberal capitalism and the contemporary world revolution. It is a particularly large epicenter, with a considerable amount of resources. The future of the development of global resistant from the Global South may greatly depend on the viability of institutions such as the Bank of the South. If Latin America can bring some of the movements and some of the progressive regimes together, this will be an energizing model for the other regions of the globe. The challenges are daunting but the majority of humankind needs an organizational instrument with which to democratize global governance.

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Appendix:

Table A1: Classifications of countries into world-system zones

World Bank classification[6]                         World-system position[7]       

Global “North:

High income

Australia                                   Core

Austria                                      Core

Belgium                                     Core

Canada                                      Core

Denmark                                   Core

Finland                                      Core

France                                       Core

Germany                                   Core

Greece                                      Semiperiphery

Hong Kong (China)                  Semiperiphery

Ireland                                       Core

Israel                                         Semiperiphery

Italy                                           Core

Japan                                         Core

Korea (Rep.)                             Semiperiphery

Netherlands                              Core

Norway                                     Core

New Zealand                            Semiperiphery

Portugal                                    Semiperiphery

Spain                                         Core

Sweden                                     Core

Switzerland                               Core

Taiwan (excluded from all sources) Semiperiphery

United Kingdom                       Core

United States                            Core

Global “South”:

Upper-middle income

Argentina                                  Semiperiphery                   

Chile                                         Semiperiphery                   

Costa Rica                                 Semiperiphery                   

Lebanon                                    Periphery                           

Mexico                                      Semiperiphery                   

Malaysia                                    Semiperiphery                   

Panama                                     Semiperiphery                   

South Africa                              Semiperiphery                   

Turkey                                      Semiperiphery

Uruguay                                    Semiperiphery                   

Venezuela                                 Semiperiphery                   

Lower-middle income

Armenia                                    Periphery                           

Bolivia                                      Periphery                           

Brazil                                        Semiperiphery                   

Colombia                                  Semiperiphery                   

Dominican Republic                 Periphery                           

Ecuador                                    Periphery                           

El Salvador                               Periphery                           

Iraq                                           Periphery                           

Paraguay                                   Periphery                           

Peru                                          Periphery                           

Philippines                                Periphery                           

 

Low income

Bangladesh                                Periphery                           

India                                          Semiperiphery                   

Kenya                                       Periphery                           

Nepal                                        Periphery                           

Pakistan                                    Periphery                           

Sudan                                        Periphery                           

Senegal                                      Periphery                           

Vietnam                                    Periphery

 

Coreness

In 2005, the following movements are significantly more OR less core than the rest of the movements: Alternate Media, Alternate Globalization, and Peace.

In 2007, the following movements are significantly more OR less core than the rest of the movements: Communist, Health HIV, and Peace.

Table A2: Coreness of Movements

 

WSF 2005

WSF 2007

 

N

Core

Sig.
(2-tailed)

N

Core

Sig.
(2-tailed)

Alternative Media

152

0.11

Yes

42

0.33

NO

Human Rights/ Anti-Racism

132

0.19

NO

134

0.37

NO

Environmental

126

0.13

NO

88

0.38

NO

Peace

95

0.31

Yes

62

0.48

Yes

Socialist

76

0.13

NO

51

0.35

NO

Labor

73

0.21

NO

49

0.43

NO

Alternative Globalization

72

0.33

Yes

80

0.31

No

Anti-Globalization

62

0.19

NO

51

0.29

No

Feminist

61

0.16

NO

56

0.41

NO

Fair Trade

59

0.27

NO

53

0.45

No

Health HIV

51

0.12

NO

83

0.18

Yes

Indigenous

44

0.14

NO

29

0.38

NO

Anti-Corporate

41

0.27

NO

24

0.42

No

Queer

37

0.19

NO

23

0.52

NO

Food Rights

35

0.14

NO

42

0.24

NO

National Liberation

35

0.09

NO

22

0.27

NO

Communist

33

0.18

NO

33

0.18

Yes

Anarchist

20

0.25

NO

7

0.29

No

TOTAL

1204

0.19

 

929

0.35

 

 

Semiperipherality:In 2005, the following movements are significantly more OR less semi-peripheral than the rest of the movements: Alternate Media, Alternate Globalization, Environmental, Fair Trade, and Peace.

In 2007, the following movements are significantly more OR less semi-peripheral than the rest of the movements: Anti-Globalization, Health HIV, Indigenous and Peace.

Table A3: Semiperipherality of Movements

 

WSF 2005

WSF 2007

 

N

Semip

Sig.
(2-tailed)

N

Core

Sig.
(2-tailed)

Alternative Media

152

0.86

Yes

42

0.21

No

Human Rights/ Anti-Racism

132

0.72

No

134

0.16

No

Environmental

126

0.83

Yes

88

0.17

No

Peace

95

0.64

Yes

62

0.06

Yes

Socialist

76

0.82

NO

51

0.16

No

Labor

73

0.78

No

49

0.1

No

Alternative Globalization

72

0.57

Yes

80

0.11

No

Anti-Globalization

62

0.71

No

51

0.33

Yes

Feminist

61

0.72

NO

56

0.11

No

Fair Trade

59

0.63

Yes

53

0.08

No

Health HIV

51

0.84

No

83

0.07

Yes

Indigenous

44

0.8

No

29

0.28

Yes

Anti-Corporate

41

0.63

No

24

0.13

No

Queer

37

0.76

No

23

0.13

No

Food Rights

35

0.71

No

42

0.19

No

National Liberation

35

0.77

No

22

0.05

No

Communist

33

0.76

No

33

0.21

No

Anarchist

20

0.7

No

7

0.14

No

TOTAL

1204

0.74

 

929

0.15

 

 


Peripherality

In 2005, the following movements are significantly more OR less peripheral than the rest of the movements: Alternate Media.

In 2007, the following movements are significantly more OR less peripheral than the rest of the movements: Health HIV.

Table A4: Peripherality of Movements

 

WSF 2005

WSF 2007

 

N

Periph

Sig.
(2-tailed)

N

Core

Sig.
(2-tailed)

Alternative Media

152

0.03

Yes

42

0.45

NO

Human Rights/ Anti-Racism

132

0.1

No

134

0.48

NO

Environmental

126

0.06

No

88

0.45

NO

Peace

95

0.07

No

62

0.45

NO

Socialist

76

0.08

No

51

0.49

NO

Labor

73

0.04

No

49

0.47

NO

Alternative Globalization

72

0.11

No

80

0.58

NO

Anti-Globalization

62

0.13

No

51

0.37

NO

Feminist

61

0.11

No

56

0.48

NO

Fair Trade

59

0.12

No

53

0.47

NO

Health HIV

51

0.04

No

83

0.75

Yes

Indigenous

44

0.09

No

29

0.34

NO

Anti-Corporate

41

0.12

No

24

0.46

NO

Queer

37

0.05

No

23

0.35

NO

Food Rights

35

0.14

No

42

0.57

NO

National Liberation

35

0.14

No

22

0.68

NO

Communist

33

0.06

No

33

0.61

NO

Anarchist

20

0.05

No

7

0.57

NO

TOTAL

1204

0.09

 

929

0.5

 

 



[1] The charter of the World Social Forum does not permit participation by those who attend as representatives of organizations that are engaged in, or that advocate, armed struggle. Nor are governments, confessional institutions or political parties supposed to send representatives to the WSF. See World Social Forum Charter http://wsf2007.org/process/wsf-charter/

 

[2] The University of California-Riverside Transnational Social Movement Research Working Group web page contains the WSF05, WSF07 and USSF survey instruments. See http://www.irows.ucr.edu/research/tsmstudy.htm

[3] The 2009 World Social Forum was held in Belem, Para, Brazil.

 

[4] The average percentages of movements are taken from Tables A2, A3 and A4 in the Appendix.

[5] This global alliance of localists has been penetratingly analyzed by Hall and Fenelon (2009).

 

[6] Based on the Gross National Income per Capita in 2004 (World Bank 2006; see also: www.worldbank.org/data/).

[7] Based on Kentor’s measure of the overall position in the world economy in 2000 (Irows46). The cutoff point between core and semiperipheral countries has been set at 2.00, the cutoff point between semiperipheral and peripheral countries at –0.89.