The following is a portion of an essay by Kolya Abramsky entitled The Bamako Appeal and The Zapatista 6th Declaration (Written in May 2006). It is, briefly stated, a comparison of the Bamako Appeal and The Zapatista’s Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona
The full essay was originally posted on www.zapagringo.blogspot.com
Part 2: The Bamako Declaration and the Zapatista Sixth Declaration – Revealing Tensions Within Global Networks of Anti-Capitalist Resistance
Differing Origins of the Two Documents
From their very early days, the Zapatistas were quick to call for international attention, and equally quick to receive it. One of their very early moves was to initiate a series of Intercontinental (humorously extended to Intergalactic) Encuentros for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism. Such gatherings, the first which was held under virtual military siege in Chiapas itself, attracted thousands of people from many parts of the world.
Rather than attempting to lead an international movement headed by the Zapatistas, such encuentros aimed to create political spaces, for an incredibly fragmented, diverse, complicated and highly disillusioned social fabric to slowly come together, building globally reaching threads of solidarity where they had not existed beforehand. Solidarity based on mutual learning, the recognition of being part of a common global struggle against the global regime of neoliberalism (a term itself popularized by the Zapatistas), in what the Zapatistas referred to as the Fourth World War. From the beginning, despite conflicting tendencies, the aim of what has since been referred to as an “armed matchmaking process” (Midnight Notes Collective 2001) was to go beyond conventional (and often patronizing) one way solidarity from the wealthy (but, “unfortunately, politically passive”) Northern countries, to the poor (but “excitingly rebellious”) Southern countries. Rather, the challenge posed by the Zapatistas was that “Todos Somos Indios”- “We are all Indians”, and that the best way of helping the Zapatistas was to resist, rebel and construct alternatives in our own locations and to network our struggles on the basis of autononomy, rather than on the basis of a homogenizing vision of unity.
And, needless to say, the process was immensely complex, attempting to construct new forms of unity, based on diversity, recognition of mutual ignorance in an ongoing experiment, and the ability to learn from one another, rather than the traditional leftist canons of homogenization, towing the party line as exemplified by select groups of intellectual holders of the truth, and the arrogant assurance of historical inevitability. An interesting, yet hardly recognized, example of this process of moving from solidarity to inspiration was the first protest in Davos against the World Economic Forum. Whilst these are now big events, blessed with the sanctity of the World Social Forum, the history of these protests goes back to 1994, just a few weeks after the Zapatista uprising, when a handful of Swiss activists decided to support the Zapatistas by protesting Zedillo’s participation there (together with Kurdish supporters who were similarly protesting the presence of the Turkish heads of state), only gradually learning about the global merits of protesting the WEF’s existence outright. The inspirational effect of the Zapatista concept of self-organization based around autonomy and diversity meant that the 1 st Intercontinental Encuentro must be seen as one of the key moments in the emergence of the so called “anti-globalization”, “global justice”, or “anti-capitalist” movement that has taken shape in recent years. Concretely, out of the second encuentro (held in the Spanish State in 1997) emerged Peoples’ Global Action, a global communication and coordination tool that helped place WTO in the targets of globally coordinated struggles, with the first day of decentralized global action against WTO occurring in 1998, over a year before the protests in Seattle erupted into the world’s media. Whilst this network is now in a complicated process of trying to redefine itself, and reemerge from a prolonged period of relative inactivity and disarray, it had a very important impact prior to the creation of the World Social Forum which held its first forum only in 2001. A further important connection between the Zapatistas and the emergence of such global resistance networks is illustrated in the fact that, despite PGA’s commitment to non-violence, it explicitly called upon the EZLN to form part of its initial Convenors’ Committee, based on a recognition that despite being armed, the Zapatistas were (and are) essentially a nonviolent struggle (11). Interestingly, and in a process that seems highly oblivious of the debt the global movement owes to the Zapatistas, the fact that the Zapatistas are armed has made them unwelcome at the World Social Forum. (Abramsky 2001, Midnight Notes Collective 2001, Notes From Nowhere 2003, PGA website, WSF website)
As will be described below, globally coordinated resistance has grown from strength to strength over the last nearly fifteen years. Yet, as February 15th 2003 saw the world’s biggest single day co-ordinations of grassroots anti-war protesting in history, as trade summits throughout the world cannot escape the virtually inevitable rioting and militarized policing, as the WTO and ALCA negotiations have been thrown into complete turmoil, and even as left wing governments sweep across Latin America, the limits of popular protest become ever more patent. The free trade summits continue, the occupation in Iraq continues, the “clash of civilizations” continues. The war drums on Iran continue. The dollar continues to slide. The hands on the clock continue to tick, getting closer to no one knows what, but getting closer nonetheless.
And, it is in this context that the summer of 2005 saw the Zapatistas go into a red alert. After a long and intensive period of collective self-reflection and discussion within their communities, they issued the following grave, yet hopeful announcement.
To our way of thinking, and what we see in our heart, we have reached a point where we cannot go any further, and, in addition, it is possible that we could lose everything we have if we remain as we are and do nothing more in order to move forward. The hour has come to take a risk once again and to take a step which is dangerous but which is worthwhile. (Zapatista 6th Declaration)
This document attracted large amounts of attention, especially amongst movements in Latin America, as well as, but by no means limited to, much interest within organizations involved in trying to resurrect the Peoples’ Global Action process (PGA 2005), though so far the PGA, as a global network, has not actually effectively responded to the challenged posed by the declaration The initial excitement generated by the 6th Declaration is nicely summed up as follows:
The most important thing about this initiative, in my opinion, is its timing. It is eleven years since the tide began to roll back against neo-liberalism and imperialism. But for the Zapatistas, not enough has been accomplished. I have the sense that they are not the only ones who think this. I have the sense that throughout Latin America, and especially in all those countries where left or populist groups have come to power, there is a similar feeling that this has not been enough, that these governments have had to make too many compromises, that popular enthusiasm is waning. I have the sense that in the World Social Forum, there is the same sentiment that what they have accomplished since they started in 2001 has been remarkable, but is not enough, that the WSF cannot simply continue to do the same things over and over. In Iraq and the Middle East in general there seems also to be a sense that the resistance to the machista interventionism of the United States has been amazingly strong but that even so it has not been enough. Will the 6 th Declaration now be the inspiration for a similar reevaluation throughout Latin America, in the World Social Forum, throughout the antisystemic movements all around the globe? And what will be the detailed objectives of the next phase? (Wallerstein 2005)
However, the fact that the Zapatistas are not allowed to participation the World Social Forum has meant that the document has had little impact within this organizational space. On the other hand, a separate yet connected process had been paving the way for the Bamako Appeal, an entirely different type of document, which would be issued by certain influential actors at the World Social Forum in Bamako in early 2006. Whilst it is important to recognize that the Appeal does not represent the World Social Forum, nor bear its name, in many ways it can nonetheless be seen as a logical outcome of the World Social Forum Process.
World-wide public sympathy towards the string of decentralised global actions against international organizations such as WTO, World Bank and IMF that had taken place from 1998 onwards resulted in a very positive process of increasing involvement by more mainstream social and political movements in what the media came to call ‘the antiglobalisation movement’. Whilst not being in any way limited to this, the first World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegre in 2001 was a clear manifestation of the growing interest and participation by the social-democratic, reformist or classic hierarchical left (including NGOs and political parties) in a process that had been initiated by antiauthoritarian networks of autonomous and anti-capitalist social movements, which as mentioned above, had been greatly inspired and motivated to come together by the Zapatistas. This development had simultaneously positive and negative consequences.
On the positive side, many mainstream social and political movements took up seriously for the first time the struggle against global capitalism due to the ‘mainstreamisation’ of the so-called ‘anti-globalisation movement’, and the ones that were already working on this topic shifted the bulk of their work from lobbying international institutions to publicly denouncing and condemning them. This was a further blow to the legitimacy of these institutions, and of the economic and political system that they symbolise. Furthermore, the active involvement of people from increasingly diverse social and political backgrounds in the mobilisations made them much larger, more fertile and increasingly problematic to repress (12). Finally, the intentional visibility of the Social Forums made them more accessible to people without previous political experience than networks without representatives or spokespersons.
The negative side is closely connected to the positive side. The unequivocal rejection of capitalism and its overseeing institutions and governments, which characterised the first mobilisations, became slightly blurred as mainstream organizations joined the actions with demands towards these institutions which would actually increase their powers (such the Social Clause in the WTO, a Tobin Tax on international financial transactions, etc). These demands are extremely unlikely to ever be implemented, but their presence in the mobilisations and the collective discourse of the so-called ‘anti-globalisation movement’ undermines the coherence of the message and therefore its de-legitimating potential. This is an unsurprising consequence of the involvement of social and political organisations which fight against neo-liberalism, not against capitalism.
A more serious problem is related to the same questions of visibility and forms of organisation that was referred to above. The WSF was created among other reasons due to the fact that there was no visible actor at the international level behind the large global mobilisations that took place from 1998 to 2000. These actions resulted in a major breakdown of legitimacy for both the WTO (due to the protests in Geneva in 1998 and Seattle in 1999), the IMF/World Bank (due to the protests in Washington and Prague in 2000), and the World Economic Forum (due to regular and growing international actions in Davos, Switzerland, from 1994 onwards), as well as a serious erosion of legitimacy for the G8, the EU summits and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (due to mobilizations in Amsterdam, Birmingham, Quebec, Nice, etc). This lack of a recognisable actor at the international level motivated different organizations, most of which came from a rather mainstream and classic organisational culture and understanding of social change, to fill the gap and create a very visible forum which would ’embody’ the so-called ‘antiglobalization movement’. The problem was that they decided to do it on the basis of alliances and partnerships that are highly problematic for many anti-capitalist social movements. The problematic alliances have resulted in aspects of its internal decisionmaking, functioning and participation which exclude the participation of many of the groups, movements and networks that initiated the Global Days of Action and which are still a substantial (and particularly dynamic and active) part of the so-called ‘movement’ (not least the Zapatistas themselves). Some examples include the presence of organisations such as the Latin American Association of Small and Medium Entrepreneurs in the International Council of the WSF, its controversial sources of funding (where the Ford Foundation, for instance, played an important role), or the prominent presence of conservative French ministers and other highly controversial politicians in different forums. Many of these issues were symbolically reflected in Lula’s participation as leading speaker at both the WSF (thanks to the notorious role that his political party, the PT, has always played at the WSF) and the World Economic Forum in 2003, claiming to build a bridge between them. (Abramsky 2001; Notes from Nowhere 2003; Waterman et al 2003).
The different appreciation of positive and negative aspects of the WSF and other Social Forums within autonomous anti-capitalist networks resulted in different strategies towards them. Some people and organisations decided to participate and try to influence the process from within, others decided to organise autonomous spaces in parallel to the forums, and others decided to ignore them completely or even organise actions against them. There is growing frustration among the movements that have been trying throughout the last years to change things from within the forums (particularly the WSF and the European Social Forum, or ESF), and there seems to be the intention to reinforce autonomous spaces independent from them (13). This interesting and dynamic debate is far from over, and is quite relevant to the extent that it reflects some of the strategic dilemmas that anti-capitalist networks are facing nowadays.
Accelerating forward in time, the Fifth World Social Forum, held in Porto Alegre in 2005, saw attempts to create a centralizing programmatic document, informally known as the Porto Alegre Manifesto (PAM) or the Appeal of 19. This document was primarily a product of high profile intellectuals such as Samir Amin, Bernard Cassen (of Attac, France), Francois Houtart from Belgium, as well as several others. The document was rejected within the World Social Forum itself as being highly problematic. However, by the time the polycentric World Social Forum took place in 2006 (in Bamako, Caracas and Karachi), the push for such a document was fortified, by the crucial role which Hugo Chavez played in providing infrastructure and political support to the event, as well as the renewed enthusiasm for state based transformation which had received an incredible boost through Evo Morales’ election victory in Bolivia, and Fidel Castro’s apparent reawakening as a veteran revolutionary on the world stage. The Bamako Appeal was issued on January 18th 2006 in Bamako, sponsored by a small group of non-governmental organizations: most notably the Forum du Tiers Monde/Third World Forum, the World Forum of Alternatives, and the Dakar-based ecology and development NGO, ENDA The three leading individuals involved are prominent figures within these NGOs and the WSF, Samir Amin, FranÃ§ois Houtart and RÃ©my Herrera. It was published in a form ready for approval after just one day’s debate, rather than for a wider and more prolonged collective debate and redrafting. It is a final document, rather than a living document in progress. On the one hand, by late March 2006 it had already gathered approximately, 21 collective endorsements, and 66 personal ones. At the organizational level, this included the major Brazilian union confederation, CUT and Brazil’s landless labor organization, MST, as well as the Assembly of Social Movements at the WSF in Caracas. Personal signatories included Aminata TraorÃ©, a Malian ex-minister prominent in the African Social Forum, Mahmoud Mamdani, an well known Ugandan radical academic, John Bellamy, editor of the US Monthly Review, Bernard Cassen, President of Attac in France, and Devan Pillay, an academic labor specialist, South Africa. On the other hand, it had also provoked immense controversy within the World Social Forum itself as well as outside of it. (Waterman 2006, WSFDiscuss Listserve)
The difference between the collectively written and discussed Zapatista 6th Declaration, drawn up under red alert by entire communities, and the Bamako Appeal drawn up on activist red carpets, stands out clear for all to see. Even within the World Social Forum itself, this is causing immense disputes. Antonio Martins, a member of the WSF International Council is quoted as asking of the Bamako Appeal:
Why should we rush into a ‘choice’ of campaigns supposedly capable of ‘unifying’ the world of social forums? Why should we propose them from small groups; are we reestablishing the barrier between those who think and those who fight, and violating the simultaneous commitment to equality and diversity? (Cited in Waterman 2006)
However, although the origins and the contents of documents are perhaps in some way connected, it is also important to recognize that they are also separate questions. A document written collectively in a democratic manner may be irrelevant, and a document written in a less participatory manner may be incredibly pertinent. Or, vice versa. It is important to assess both things separately. The next part of this article will address the contents of the Zapatista 6th Declaration and the Bamako Appeal.
Differing Approaches to Long-term Social Change
The Zapatistas are currently in a process of reconfiguring their struggles and interactions with other groupings, both within Mexico and globally. This change of strategy, beautifully, humorously and humbly articulated in the 6th Declaration from the Lacandon Jungle, extends an invitation to struggle together. Without an intensification of struggle (and importantly this has actually involved dropping their arms), the Zapatistas stress the danger of losing all that has been gained.
Importantly, The Other Campaign which has been initiated throughout Mexico is described as coming “From the Bottom to the Left”, explicitly complementing the term “anti-neoliberal” with the term “anti-capitalist”. Whilst the 6th Declaration is mainly devoted to The Other Campaign within Mexico, it is also explicitly inviting a global process of building new social relations from the Bottom to the Left, calling for a global reconfiguration and reinvigoration of the Left, a globalization of The Other Campaign. Above all it is inviting a process of creation, not just of merely reassembling pre-existing Left parts that have somehow been sleeping for years. The document is based in the understanding that the world Left does not exist, it is up to all those who are “humble and simple people like ourselves, who are dignified and rebel” to create and become the global left. Above all, while covering a far reaching description of the Mexican and world-economy, the declaration has nonetheless been written in a playful, imaginative, seductive language, a language that can make people laugh and imagine.
Rather than an appeal to replicate the Zapatistas throughout the world, a task which is likely to be both impossible and undesirable, the Sixth Declaration is an invitation to groups in struggle throughout the world, to deepen their knowledge of one another, to deepen their interactions, their process of mutual creation and construction of a global process of resistance and construction, based on direct human interaction, diversity and autonomy. The Declaration includes a rejection of the concepts of “development”, economic growth and “modernization”. And while having a healthy respect for indigenous knowledge, does not fall back on nostalgic yearnings for a mythical past. Their appeal goes out to the great diversity of marginalized, oppressed, but struggling and dignified groupings. Notably, this also includes a lengthy and respectful inclusion of “other loves”, gays, lesbians and transgenders. By complexifying identity to a multilayered and immensely fluid space of interaction and autonomy between such diverse realities, it simultaneously plays havoc with homogenizing discourses of the left, and also conceptions of unity upon which the nation state itself is based. Such diversity does not advocate separatism, but rather a deepening of webs of inter-connection and respect for different forms of oppression and marginalization in a process of construction. It is in these connections that a new global Left can be built, not around pre-existing organizations, or any preconceived global working class, but rather by connecting fragmented groupings. Yet, paradoxically, though perhaps deliberately, while shying away from old leftist language about “the working class”, the Declaration could hardly paint a richer and more diverse picture of the world’s working class if it tried, or a more powerful conception of revolutionary working class unity (14). Yet, the important understanding is that, if it is ever to become a reality, the unity will be built through concrete struggle and concrete human bonds. It cannot be conjured up as an intellectual desire.
And, just as the Zapatistas do not aim at creating or taking over a state apparatus within Mexico, their conception of building global links is not based around interaction between states, but rather on creating alternative relations of solidarity from below. Rather than espousing an abstract ideal, the basis of such two-way solidarity is imagined concretely, including the proposal to build direct community to community links of material mutual support through the donation and exchange of handicrafts, coffee and maize. In other words, the aim is to imagine and construct new forms of politics and exchange at the global level. While Leftist (or anti-imperialist) states such as Venezuela, Cuba or Bolivia are celebrated and saluted with nothing but positive praise, they are not placed upon a pedestal above non-state based forms of resistance and struggle. Rather, such states are clearly recognized as just one actor among many. And, while saluting these individual states, another message also makes itself heard, even if just implicitly – that, despite the existence of a few anti-imperialist states, the state form in general is an important source of domination and hierarchy, and that for anti-capitalist resistance to be successful in the long run and at the global level, it must also be about building new forms of collective power from below that are able to transcend the nation state form and the interstate system. Collective forms of solidarity based on diversity and autonomy that undermine the unitary nature of the state, as well as the artificial ideological distinction between politics, economics, on which the state form rests. But, the Declaration does not look for prepackaged answers, nor does it try to elaborate a program. Rather it is an invitation to engage in a long term process of dialogue and cooperation to create, invent and experiment in building these new relations. And, a process relying on humans in all their glory and all their weakness, is bound to be full of setbacks and failures and, yes, simply fuck ups, all of which must be taken for what they are and learnt from. As the quotation at the beginning of the article makes clear, in an echo of Rosa Luxembourgs assertion that Revolution is built on a string of heroic failures, the Sixth Declaration humbly acknowledges that there is time to “have a little cup of coffee and talk about the antineoliberal struggle”. Furthermore, the same quotation very explicitly recognizes that if these processes of global construction really take off in a meaningful way, they will be subjected to very harsh repression.
The whole endeavor is nothing but an uncertain gamble, and may well fall on deaf ears. If people throughout the world do not respond to the call, it will surely amount to nothing. But, the Zapatistas are confident in the fact that they are a firmly rooted local struggle, a struggle that has proven it’s self to be not just empty words and wishful thinking, but the hard earned reliability of real struggle, with all the limitations, disappointments, setbacks, imperfections and contradictions that such struggle entails. People listen to and respect such experience, without holding it in awe. At any rate, we can be thankful that they were confident enough to issue the invitation in the first place. Perhaps its effects will be limited to Mexico, where a very strong country-wide Other Campaign has already set out on the long road to create a new form of politics, and ultimately pave the way for a new Mexican Constitution based on the needs of its diverse, oppressed and marginalized but dignified population. And, in some instances, the Campaign has already faced harsh repression. As May Day 2006 rolls on, Delegado Zero has proclaimed that they will topple Evil Governments. Today they made it to the US Embassy in support of the historic migrant protests in the USA. In June they will make it to the US border at Tiajuana. The impact of the global call has yet to be seen. To a large extent it is out of the Zapatista’s hands. They have set the ball rolling. We have all been invited to participate in the elaboration of another of the legendary Zapatista Intercontinental Encuentros, and to deepen our global networks on the basis of direct inter-community relations. The invitation clearly recognizes the urgent need and historic possibilities for going beyond nation state structures. It is up to us if we are able and committed enough to respond.
Let us now turn to a discussion of the Bamako Appeal. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is a far reaching document. Despite criticisms directed against it, it has undoubtedly emerged from within the organizational context of grassroots struggles, and much of the document contains very positive discussion and ideas. Yet, much of it is also highly problematic. This text will focus on the problematic aspects, since the positive aspects clearly speak for themselves. Many of the problems arise from the fact that the document leaves a feeling that it has an implicit agenda that rings out loud and clear yet at the same time remains simultaneously undeclared, as if the authors were not brave enough to actually place their terms of debate squarely on the table.
The Bamako Appeal is essentially a program for action. Like the Communist Manifesto, it is, coincidentally, a 10 point program. The following 10 fields are discussed, including both long- term goals and proposals for immediate action: the political organization of globalization; the economic organization of the world system; the future of peasant societies; the building of a workers’ united front; regionalization for the benefit of the peoples; the democratic management of the societies; gender equality; the sustainable management of the resources of the planet; the democratic management of the media and the cultural diversity; democratization of international organizations.
While it is clear that it is hoped that its readership will be as broad as possible, it lacks some of the poetic flair that gives the Zapatista document such as widespread appeal. Preferring the well-chewed language of past struggles, the Bamako Appeal highlights the need to “build a united workers front”, aiming to contribute to the emergence of a new popular and historical subject” and “affirm the solidarity of the people of the North and the South in the construction of an internationalism on an anti-imperialist basis”. An important question stands out? Which actors is it primarily addressing? While it is clearly addressing movements, it is hard to escape the fact that “the humble and simple people” addressed by the Zapatistas nonetheless seem to be absent from the equation. Rather, it appears as if nation states and policy makers, (or perhaps aspirant policy makers who are now movement activists?), are the main expected audience, as well as “experts” who are appealed to on several occasions throughout the text. Again implicit, is that the program will be approved from below, but implemented from above – it is full of policy recommendations and demands rather than encouraging self-organized activity and the construction of new relationships between human beings. This is not a stated message, but the controversial manner in which the document was approved seems to bode badly in this regard.
The document calls for a high level of increased coordination of struggles and solidarity, based on diversity and autonomy:
The diversity of nations and of peoples produced by history, in all its positive aspects along with the inequalities that accompany them, demands the affirmation of autonomy of peoples and nations. There does not exist a unique universal recipe in the political or economic spheres that would permit any bypassing of this autonomy. The task of building equality necessarily requires a diversity of means to carry it out.
Yet it nonetheless is a program aimed at harmonizing. Arguably, in contradiction to the above statement, these aspects make it program aimed at homogenizing the demands of people all across the world and centralizing the movement to a much higher degree than its current levels. Many different opinions may exist as to whether such centralization and homogenization is a bad thing, but the disturbing fact is that it is implicit, not explicit in the document, seemingly having been snuck in the back door, since centralizing and homogenous organizational forms are not very popular within current global networks. Some might argue that such decentralized and diverse forms have reached the limits of their usefulness. Again, this is a perfectly legitimate intellectual opinion to have, but then it should be acknowledged, and debated in these terms.
Work is not placed as the central axis of struggle for the global movement, but the document does contain a broad discussion of labor. According to international labor activist Peter Waterman, this “may well be the most radical political statement on the topic to be found within or around the World Social Forum” (Waterman 2006)
The most important task will be for workers outside the formal sector to organize themselves and for the traditional trade unions to open up in order to carry out common actions…. To consider the rights of migrant worker as a basic concern for the trade unions by ensuring that solidarity among workers is not dependent on their national origin. Indeed, segregation and discrimination on ethnic or other bases are threats to working-class solidarity… To take care so that the future transnational organization of the laboring class is not conceived as a unique, hierarchical and pyramidal structure, but as a variety of various types of organizations, with a network-like structure with many horizontal bonds.
Having displaced worker struggle from the central position it occupied in old leftist discourses, the section also goes to great lengths to be critical of mainline trade unionism that marginalizes different forms of labor. Yet, at the same time, it gives the impression that reformed trade unions should still be at the center of workers struggles that will reach out to include other forms of organizing. At the same time, the document clearly distinguishes between “workers” and peasants, without either explaining why it makes this distinction or how work is understood in relation to the creation of surplus value. It is unclear if or how it considers unwaged labor. What the Zapatista document does not say about a diverse world-wide working class, the Bamako Appeal does say, with a fairly “workerist” conception of working class, seemingly unaware of the conceptual advances made by autonomist class composition analysis and certain strands of world-systems analysis that understand relationally the multiplicity of different forms of waged and nonwaged labor which are all essential for capitalism.
As the quotation at the start of this article makes clear, the Bamako Appeal places great emphasis on the North-South hierarchy, and South-South solidarity. Aside from the fact that terms such as North and South are increasingly unhelpful in explaining today’s inequalities (especially since the collapse of former Communist countries), there is very little, if any criticism of the “modernization” and “development” discourses per se, which has largely been spurred forwards by the struggles of groups (such as indigenous peoples) who are themselves marginalized or oppressed by developmental practices. Nor is there a discussion of the complicity of Third World elites in the process of capital accumulation. The document calls for support of governments which resist neoliberalism, and are antiimperialist without qualifying what such support may actually mean in practice. Implicit is a “with us or against us” message of unconditional support. Apart from the obvious fact that this kind of statement shows very little concern for the fact that state structures themselves constitute important sources of domination and hierarchy, it also neglects to raise major questions as to how it might be possible to be simultaneously supportive and critical of anti-imperialist states such as Chavez’s Venezuela. Other important questions are also neglected. Vague calls such as “solidarity with the people engaged in resistance in the hot spots of the planet” suggests a very simplistic “the enemy of our enemy is a friend” approach, which could potential even include embracing Al Qaeda and the Iranian state. And, while it is clear that such actors are currently unwelcome in the picture, it is less clear what could happen as an anti-imperialist state such as Venezuela moves closer to Iran, as it is indeed in the process of doing. How easy will criticism of the Iranian regime be, especially if it were to start giving material aid to the global movement as Chavez has done at the World Social Forum?
In contrast to the Zapatista document which is clearly aimed at stimulating thinking and action with regard to the need to create new social relations, the Bamako Appeal is very rooted in the desire to reform and improve, but not go beyond, existing institutional structures. The document is rooted in the language of reforming the nation state, and the United Nations and “the full affirmation of citizenship”. States (hopefully anti-imperialist ones) will coexist with one another in peace, there shall be a “return to the principle of the rule of national law… so that the national states can recover their full sovereignty”. Both citizens and states will have rights. There is no discussion implicit or explicit of the possibility of going beyond the nation state and the inter-state system, nor is there an attempt to engage seriously with the contradictory nature of universalism as being inherently exclusionary or the fact that states have in any case never been autonomous in the past. Again, this raises, or fails to raise, many questions. Will the states form a confederation of non-capitalist states? Or perhaps some kind of reformed ultra-imperialist rearrangement of capitalism? How will citizenship be genuinely universalistic, when in the past it never has? Will existing structures be replaced with similar ones that are simply “better arranged”? And above all, how will such interstatal relations actually be built?
Linked to this, but separate, is the issue of confrontation with existing relations of domination, which are surely essential for global anti-capitalist resistance. While the document clearly stresses the need to continue and accelerate political struggles against international institutions or agreements, such as the World Trade Organizaiton or ALCA, other areas of (material) confrontation are neglected. Debt cancellation is demanded, but the more confrontational idea of globally coordinated non-payment of debt, an idea first mooted by Fidel Castro within the Non Aligned Movement, and later taken up by the more radical sections of Jubilee South, are nowhere to be seen in the Bamako Appeal. Nor are discussions of reparations for slavery and colonialism, which were some of the fundamental demands of movements protesting at the Durban Conference of Racism. Another glaring absence is any discussion of direct reappropriation of capitalist wealth, even though the global anti-capitalist movement is primarily based in mass movements that are squatting land in India and Brazil (to name but a few), buildings, and factories (Argentina) throughout the world, as well as using armed struggle to appropriate the fruits of oil from oil multinationals (Nigeria). Furthermore, there is only minimal discussion of the role that global resistance networks might be able to play in building processes of globally coordinated efforts at direct action based disruption of the commodity chains which keep the world economy alive, which is surely a logical direction to go in after they have achieved so much success in delegitimizing organizations such as the WTO, World Bank and IMF which symbolize, promote, protect and impose the expansion of the global market.
At the risk of being overly paranoid, one possible conclusion that might be drawn from all of the above points, though perhaps not the only one, is that the Bamako appeal implicitly contains the seeds of a program for a movement whose (very) long term aims are some (undefined) form of world government. The text is explicitly in favor of world “socialism, a word that is snuck in quietly just once in a 17 page text. Again, the word “socialism” is explicitly rejected by many in the movement, and if an aim of this text is to resurrect and or/redefine the concept this is fine, but should be argued in these terms, rather than snuck in.
In many ways, the goals of the Bamako Appeal are incredibly far reaching, but also incredibly utopian. There is little discussion of how the desired changes will come about and be defended. Its proposals are lofty: a multipolar world system founded on peace, law and negotiation; an economic reorganization of the global system; regionalizations in the service of the people and which reinforce the South in Global negotiations etc. While saying that there is a need to harness and mobilized the social forces in this direction it leaves much to be imagined as to how these forces will bring about these changes. In constrast to the Zapatista Declaration which stresses the need to construct a new global Left in which people are transformed in the process, the Bamako Appeal seems to be appealing to pre-existing social forces that are waiting to be mobilized by a bunch of high-level mobilizers with a highly mobilizing plan. Finally, the absence of any discussion of the dangers of (global) counter-revolution should these proposed processes of resistance gain momentum is very conspicuous.
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