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<nettime> The_Network_of_the_World's_Social_Movements
Florian Schneider on Wed, 12 Feb 2003 21:06:00 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> The_Network_of_the_World's_Social_Movements

[From: hub {AT} inventati.org a list that was established after the
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The World Social Forum's New Project:
"The Network of the World's Social Movements"

By Ezequiel Adamovsky; The Cid Campeador Neighborhood Assembly, Buenos 

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

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

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

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

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

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