By Éric Toussaint
2015 corresponds to the deadline for the Millennium Declaration adopted in 2000 by the UN Extraordinary Assembly. Not only will the objectives of reducing poverty and improving access to education not be met, but, in many parts of the world, living conditions will also be degraded.
We are on the eve of 2015: only 9 years separate us, and the panorama that is presented is very disturbing.
Obviously, the living conditions of a significant part of the populations are degrading, both in Western Europe and in other parts of the world. This degradation affects income, employment, access to culture. It also affects the application of the fundamental rights of people, both as individuals and as groups. Degradation is also manifest in ecological balances, in relations between States and peoples, with a resort to military aggression by the great powers, beginning with the United States. But they are not alone, they have, for example, their allies in Europe, an alliance in which several countries participated - or actively participate - in the aggression against Iraq, Afghanistan and will also be willing to intervene in Iran. I am also thinking of the state terrorism exercised by the State of Israel against the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples. Not forgetting the intervention of Russia against the Chechen people.
Phenomena of barbarism are manifested daily before our eyes.
In Western Europe, what strikes me particularly is the denial of justice to those seeking asylum. At the moment I am speaking to you, an important movement is taking place in Belgium for the regularization of the undocumented. Around thirty Catholic churches and public places have been occupied throughout the country by the undocumented, some of whom use the hunger strike as a means of combat. There is an absolutely elementary denial of justice there.
Another form of barbarism is the one that consists, in the discourse of political leaders, including those on the left, in trivializing the idea according to which all the misery of the world cannot be accommodated and that they can perfectly be forwarded collectively to people those who are not granted the right of asylum. This form of barbarism leaves asylum seekers at the borders of the European Union. This is what people shot to death have known as they tried to cross the barriers of the European Union in the Spanish enclaves in Morocco. I think of the thousands of people who lose their lives trying to cross the Strait of Gibraltar or to reach the Canary Islands. This phenomenon is not unique to Europe. We know what happens on the southern border of the United States south of the Rio Grande.
Between now and 2015, if the course of this policy is not reversed, I do not see how these forms of degradation and this denial of justice could be resolved.
2015 corresponds to the deadline for the Millennium Declaration adopted in 2000 by the UN Extraordinary Assembly. Not only will the objectives of reducing poverty and improving access to education not be met, but in many parts of the world, living conditions will also be degraded. This finding is absolutely disturbing and, consequently, one must ask whether there are forces powerful enough to counteract the current historical trend.
This trend dates back more than thirty years, which represents a human generation. Pinochet's military coup in Chile in 1973 served as a laboratory for the implementation of neoliberal policies that gradually became generalized in Western Europe -with Margaret Thatcher in 1979 -and in North America- during the 1981 presidency of Ronald Reagan. to 1989.
The advent of historical opposition forces
Are there historical forces capable of countering this progressive dominance of neoliberalism? The answer is yes. If others see the origin in 1999 with the battle of Seattle, I personally place it in 1994, the year in which three events have taken place:
1 - On January 1, 1994, the Zapatista rebellion broke out in Chiapas. There an actor who had fought for centuries against the Spanish occupier manifested himself. That indigenous people (the Mayas) proclaimed fundamental demands. In a universal language, he addressed the entire planet through the voice of Subcomandante Marcos. A phenomenon that greatly exceeds his person and personal characteristics. It became the expression of a deeper movement since the indigenous people of Chiapas were not alone in the fight: the indigenous people of Ecuador met above all within the Confederation of Indigenous Nations of Ecuador (CONAIE). And, in 2005, in Bolivia, Evo Morales was elected and became the first indigenous president in power in Latin America.
The year 1994 thus marks the explosion of the struggle of a native people - and a minority in Mexico - that denounces a trade agreement and declares war on the Mexican government. But "peacefully": " We revolt, we take up arms but we wish not to use them"It is not the last guerrilla experience of the 20th century but rather the first experience of a new type of guerilla of the 21st century.
2 - It was also in 1994 that the 50th anniversary of the founding of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) took place. The event was commemorated by a huge protest meeting in Madrid. This demonstration later inspired the French who, in the mobilization against the G-7 in Lyon in 1996, launched the collectives « The other voices on the planet » .
The Spanish initiative brought together NGOs, movements such as « platform 0.7% »In which young people were fighting for their country to allocate 0.7% of GDP to public aid for development, and also to unions, feminist movements, environmental movements. Already on the occasion of that counter-summit, a whole series of movements joined forces that, later were to meet again in Seattle in 1999, then in Porto Alegre in 2001, etc.
3 - Third strong moment of 1994: the explosion of the «Tequila» crisis again in Mexico. It is necessary to remember that in 1993-1994, they spoke to us about the Asian miracle, the Mexican miracle, the Czech miracle for the Eastern countries. They told us about emerging countries and their great successes. The «Tequila» crisis is going to shake all of Latin America. It is the beginning of a series of financial crises that will successively shake Southeast Asia, then Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Turkey, etc.
For me, the year 1994 is then a turning point in terms of the manifestation of new forms of resistance, of new alliances and of the crisis of the neoliberal model.
We could take other dates: 1989 marks the great mobilization in France on the occasion of the bicentennial of the French Revolution and the opposition to the G-7 meeting convened that same year at the Bastille; It was also the launch of the «Basta Ya» campaign - at the base of the birth of CADTM. Without forgetting by the way 1999 with Seattle ...
New resistors a little everywhere
In the course of the 1990s, after a first period led by the Pinochets, Thatcher and Reagan, new forms of resistance appeared in different parts of the planet. Thanks to different actors who expressed themselves then, the void left by the crisis of the traditional labor movement began to be filled.
Beginning its development in the 19th century, then gradually consolidating, the labor movement dominated the scene of the struggles for emancipation for much of the 20th century in Europe. The Resistance struggles during the Second World War and Liberation, the conquests that followed and the victory against Nazism and Fascism were largely led by this labor movement that had strong bastions in the industrial working class. Seriously deteriorated by the neoliberal offensive of the years 1970-1980, this labor movement entered into crisis.
We then see the emergence of actors in the '90s that we had forgotten since they had been marginalized. And it is on a planetary scale that they are going to impose peasant movements: the creation of «Via Campesina» in 1992, the emblematic figure of José Bové from Seattle. I am from the generation of May 68. At that time, who would have imagined that the peasants were going to occupy an outpost of the new anti-global warfare? In 1971, the struggle took place on the Larzac plateau in France , already with José Bové, the creation of the Movement of the Landless in 1984 in Brazil, a huge peasant movement in India and in different parts of the planet .
This movement became an extremely important actor in the resistance to the neoliberal offensive and to the commercialization of the world, to patents on living things. In particular, he placed in the first place the demands related to common goods: water, land, seeds ... Those demands or those values are not new in themselves but they are new in the way of presenting them because, classically, the conquests of Liberation, the strengthening of public services, did not present the issue of common goods as an objective to achieve.
In the postwar period of World War II, access to certain common goods was improved. With the neoliberal offensive, the commons were left in a calamitous state and today the need to defend them or regain their dominance is perceived.
I could talk about the indigenous movements as we see them resuming the offensive. In Bolivia, for example, from the 1940s to the 1960s, the vanguard of the Bolivian people were the coal miners and their unions. With the coal mines closed in the 1980s, it is the indigenous people, especially the coca growers, who constitute a movement that is both peasant and indigenous. We have seen coal miners retired or having lost their jobs, support and join the peasant and indigenous movement: a new alliance was born.
We could also talk about Feminist movement relaunched with the World March of Women in 2000; of the different youth movements that we had not known with such magnitude at the beginning of the 90's. But I do not forget the employees. The counter-offensives, which I have located in 1994, were prolonged, on a western European scale, by the great social mobilization of the autumn of 1995 in France. There, wage earners mobilized and got rid of the right-wing prime minister, Alain Juppé, which, in its dynamics, led his successor, the socialist prime minister, Lionel Jospin, to withdraw France from the negotiations on the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI ) thus capturing an important milestone in the neoliberal offensive.
The new forces also include what I will call « new proletarians »Or the newly excluded, the voiceless. The rebellion in the suburbs in France in November 2005 (which has spread slightly in Belgium and Germany) is the rebellion of the new proletarians. It is not so much about exploited in factories in the industrial context, although some of them are. The youth of the suburbs who arose in the fall of 2005 are proletarians in the true sense of the word: they do not own their means of production, and they must find where to rent their arms and brains to live and support their families.
A challenge: integration with the rebels
The youth of the suburbs are for me a kind of new proletariat that seeks and finds the ways to express itself with the appropriate modes of action. We may regret the form this revolt has taken, but it is a fundamental challenge for organized citizens' movements, for trade union movements, to join in this type of rebellion. I know it is not easy but, in the fragmented framework in which we live, if this integration is not done, I do not see how the actors that oppose the neoliberal offensive will be able to win.
I know it is not easy but, in the fragmented environment in which we live, if this integration is not done, I do not see how the actors who oppose the neoliberal offensive could really win. In Western European or North American countries, those who are lucky enough to have a guaranteed job or retirement and the energy to fight because they are still in good health (people who reached retirement age 40 or 50 years ago did not have the same possibilities) should promote a new social alliance. If we, salaried workers between 20 and 60 years old and retired in organized sectors, do not find the means of integrating together with the voiceless, with the new proletarians, in a powerful protest movement of fundamental criticism of society, then, I can hardly see how, in the most industrialized countries, we can expect radical change. Indeed, all change has always depended heavily on the young generation, the one that is in schools, in the universities, the one that is unemployed or already working. Young people expressed themselves in France in the framework of the movement against the CPE (contract of first employment) in spring 2006, but they also expressed themselves in the suburbs.
The World Social Forum process: a milestone
On the international side, the new alliance that emerges is expressed in part by the World Social Forum process, which has new characteristics in relation to processes found in earlier periods of history. Thus, there is no geographic center that dictates their rhythm to others. The great revolutionary upheavals of the 18th and 19th centuries were primarily the work of the peoples of Europe and the Americas: the revolutions of the late 18th century in France and the United States, the revolutionary upheavals in the course of the 19th century, especially when Marx he wrote "a ghost haunts Europe: communism" in the spring of 1848 and that a true European revolutionary dynamic unfolds. In the 20th century, revolutions shook both central countries (Germany (1918-1923), Spain (1936-1939)) and countries considered peripheral (Russia in 1905 and in 1917, Mexico (1910), China (1949) , Cuba (1959), Algeria (1962), Nicaragua (1979), etc.). The neoliberal offensive and the restoration of capitalism in the former Soviet bloc and in China have frozen the revolutionary perspective.
But the pockets of resistance to neoliberalism and capitalism had not disappeared. Starting in the 1990s, a resistance movement emerged that managed to internationalize. The World Social Forum is a milestone in the constitution of a vast international resistance movement that is in full evolution. This movement is heterogeneous and does not have an epicenter. All its components of multiform resistance are not necessarily recognized in the World Social Forum. Its operation in a network without a true command structure tends to become general.
There is nothing miraculous about the WSF
That said, the World Social Forum should not be viewed only in its innovative and positive aspects, as it has obvious limitations. To begin with, as indicated above, it does not represent the set of all global resistance movements. Two examples: the Zapatistas of Mexico are not part of the Forum, the resistance struggles of China have no contact with the WSF. Furthermore, the notion of alternative strategy is only in its infancy and the old debate between reformists and revolutionaries has not been closed. Is it necessary to break with the system or just to condition it and resume the regulatory mechanisms making a more civilized capitalism? This debate is always well present and will surely regain vigor. It can cause a division in the movement. Today, the movement is the expression of an alliance between revolutionaries and reformists on a minimal platform. This platform includes basic demands that go from the Tobin tax to the cancellation of third world debt, the fight against tax havens ... But if there is an agreement to fight together for these demands, how can we achieve the most fundamental objectives? This other possible world that we are wanting and that we would like to appear so that the new generations can really live (not simply dream or proclaim the desire) what is it really? Strategic discussions must take place on that topic. It is necessary both to discuss the alternative and the means of achieving it. We cannot economize on that action.
Where can change come from?
I think that the forces that act towards change, those resistance movements are expressed in all the geographical sectors of the planet, even in a country that is, for the moment, on the fringes of the Social Forums process: China. That country is experiencing extremely important social struggles. They recall the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. In the face of capitalism on the offensive, forms of worker or citizen resistance emerge that evoke what we have known 70, 80 years or more ago. If you ask me where the change can come from, I would say it can come from anywhere on the planet.
Venezuela and Bolivia: actors of change
But if we speak of a revolutionary change, I see it coming from the South rather than the North. What today is the most innovative and could bring us closer to great changes, is the Venezuelan and Bolivian experience.
Of course, it is necessary not to idealize. It is necessary to maintain a critical spirit. These two experiences are not limited to the role of Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales, although both figures are important. These figures play a positive role in the process so far and are the expression of powerful movements that are underway in their countries. But Evo Morales would not be there without the great Cochabamba mobilizations of April 2000 against the privatization of water and the even more important movement of October 2003 against the privatization of natural gas. Chávez would not have acceded to the presidency in 1998 if there had not been the great anti-IMF mutiny of 1989 and the powerful resistance of Venezuelans.
These two countries set the example because, in them, the movement has found expression in the government. The two governments resumed the initiative from the point of view of the commons. Bolivia regained control over gas and water, Venezuela reinsured public control over oil production and has put oil revenues at the service of a new social project within the framework of a regional redistribution. Venezuela signed agreements with non-oil-exporting countries in the region and sells oil to them at a price lower than the world market. In addition, Cuba, which has 20,000 doctors working voluntarily in Venezuela to provide free health care to the population, has developed tremendously interesting cooperative relations with that country and with Bolivia. It is a certain form of barter between countries endowed with different capacities, different histories, and different political models. This current experience is really interesting. The reference to the struggle of Tupac Amaru or Simón Bolívar  shows the will to relate the current experience with previous revolutionary experiences, rooting it in the Latin American reality.
Reversing the course of history
Where, then, can come the forces capable of reversing the course of the last thirty years? Exemplary experiences such as those of Venezuela and Bolivia will be combined with the mobilizations in North America, Western Europe and Japan. This conjunction of forces from the old world with those of the new can produce a true reversal of the course of history. That said, we can't guarantee anything anyway. From where the importance for each of us to take their part in citizen action.
Towards the socialism of the XXI century
I don't need to believe in the collapse of capitalism or in the victory of a revolutionary project to act on a day-to-day basis and resist the denial of justice. There is nothing ineluctable in history. For example, capitalism will not collapse on its own. I am not sure, at my age, that I will have a new great revolutionary experience, but I nevertheless think that it is reasonable to imagine that we are going to start again towards a form of experience of the socialist type. This idea is by no means unanimous in the movement, in the World Social Forum…, but I am one of those who consider it necessary to reinvent socialism in the 21st century.
Beyond the traumatic experiences of the 20th century, beyond the horrible figure of Stalinism or what happened in China or Cambodia with Pol Pot, it is necessary to return to the emancipatory socialist project of the 19th century and the revolutionary values of the 18th century. It is necessary to take into account the new contributions of multiple actors and the new demands and reinsert all of this into the reality of the 21st century. Socialism of the 21st century is the free union of producers, it is male / female equality, it is a project international, a federation of countries and regions in the framework of large continental units and in respect for the fundamental texts of international covenants such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the Covenant on social, economic and cultural rights of 1966, a series of instruments for the definition of rights in the international and universal framework in which they had been written and acquired on the occasion of the e previous revolutions. The realization of these fundamental rights cannot be done without the creative implementation of a new model of socialism in the 21st century. But I cannot guarantee that it will happen in my lifetime. On that side I am not particularly optimistic. But the 21st century has nine decades to live ...
Debt with a horizon of 2015.
In the current logic, the infernal cycle of indebtedness is a reinforcement of the subordination mechanism of the countries of the South from now to 2015. We are absolutely not for a smooth way of solving the problem. We are at a totally special juncture in which, objectively, indebted countries could free themselves from the yoke of debt because the foreign exchange reserves they have accumulated have never been so important. If the indebted countries created a fund, if they pooled their foreign exchange reserves, they could abstain from creditors from the North and from new loans. The problem is that for the most part, the governments of the South do not have the will to implement an alternative financing model since it would imply a different distribution of wealth. Breaking the financial dependence in relation to the North, financing development projects in the South by another distribution of wealth, adding internationally the global rates that would provide income, objectively, is possible. But, on the part of the governments of the South, the will to do so is not perceived. Except for Venezuela, Bolivia, a bit in Argentina and, in a very very timid way, in Brazil: these Latin American countries are reflecting together on the constitution of a South Bank and a South monetary fund. The debate is engaged and the meetings are held, including meetings with the central banks of those countries. This is a positive evolution but, fundamentally, I think that the solution will come from a will, from pressure from the street on a certain number of governments almost willing to repudiate the payment of their foreign debt.
I think that, in the coming years, we are going to witness a very strong tension in relation to the issue of external debt, the solvency of a number of countries and that this will provoke strong popular reactions in the countries of the South in terms of demands for non-payment of debt. We have seen it for the first time in December 2001, when Argentina suspended the payment of its debt with respect to most of its private creditors, and then the following four years. I think that the Argentine experience will be reproduced in two or three years. www.ecoportal.ent
* Eric Toussaint, president of CADTM (Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt) Belgium, author of La Bolsa o la vida. Finances against the peoples, CLACSO, Buenos Aires, 2004. Co-author with Damien Millet of 50 Questions / 50 Answers on the debt, the IMF and the World Bank, Icaria- Intermon / Oxfam, Barcelona 2004 (several additional editions in Ecuador -Editorial Aby-Yala-, Argentina -Ediciones Luxemburg-, Venezuela -Ministry of Higher Education-, Cuba -Editorial del Oriente-); co-author with Damien Millet of The Tsunamis of Debt, Icaria- Intermon / Oxfam, Barcelona 2006; co-author with Arnaud Zacharie of Out of the Crisis. Debt and Adjustment. CADTM - Peace with dignity, Madrid, 2002. More information: www.cadtm.org
This text will be published in French by ATTAC 04 France in the collective book “Voces rebeldes” (“Voix rebelles”).
 Which inspired the Committee for the cancellation of the debt of the third world (CADTM) the name of its quarterly magazine «Other Voices of the Planet». www.cadtm.org
 In October 1971, the French government, under the leadership of the Minister of Defense, Miguel Debré, decided to expand the Larzac military camp created in 1902. The farmers - quickly gathered with thousands of militants from all over - joined They oppose this extension project that would expropriate more than a hundred farms. This project is finally canceled in 1981 by the new President of the Republic, François Mitterrand, after ten years of non-violent struggles.
 Simon Bolívar (1783-1830) was the first to attempt the unification of the countries of Latin America in order to make one single nation. After long struggles, he managed to free Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia from Spanish domination. Being considered as a true hero, his name has been used to designate many geographical locations throughout Latin America.
September 2006 CADTMhttp://www.cadtm.org
Translated by Guillermo Parodi (Paraguay)