Make an argument, please...(re: WSF)

Patrick Bond pbond at
Sat Feb 2 22:08:23 MST 2002

Comrade Derrick, different lines of argument work in different places. The
phraseology of "civil society" (which we do our best to preface with the
descriptor "working-class") is excellent here in building an anti-capitalist
movement, because the language of communism is poisoned by the role of the
SA Communist Party inside the neoliberal government. And no, no one I know
who is active in grassroots struggles thinks participatory budgeting is
going to work under conditions of neoliberalism (a local activist and I made
this point in the 1996 Socialist Register, predicting Brazilian PT cities
would continue to disappoint).

So, give us a break from sterile purism. Look at the revolutionary comrades
who are coming from places like Soweto to Porto Alegre, comparing notes and
making practical alliances (against common targets like the World Bank) with
comrades from similar struggles across the world. The crucial point now is
to identify friends and enemies with more nuance than whether or not they
are in "civil society." In my view (which I've described at length in a
book, Against Global Apartheid), that entails coming to grips with Fix It
versus Nix It conceptions of the global state. As to agency, all of us in
that scene here in Jo'burg would certainly prefer a revolutionary mass
proletariat party, and we still -- behind closed doors -- use ideas of "dual
power" and "organisations of mass people's power" and the like (rhetoric
from the 1980s). But bear with us and don't be put off by work in the sphere
of "development" and talk of "alternatives"--the anti-capitalist content
should be obvious once you get into the issues.

Anyhow, it's a good time to take a look at this whole international radical
scene. Comrade Louis used to just write it off as a wank a couple of years
ago, before Seattle. What do you think Louis? And if you don't give us a
straight answer, I'll tie you down for a beer when I'm at CU on 28 Feb...

----- Original Message -----
From: "Derrick O'Keefe"
> I wasn't trashing the WSF conclusively.  I simply forwarded an open letter
> from Brazilian trade unionists that raises several points.  Are you
> their arguments that "civil society" is a disorienting concept ...

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