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MUNISH AGGARWAL | 18.10.2003 08:13 | Analysis | Globalisation | Social Struggles | World

A Communist Revolutionary critique of the World Social Forum. An attempt to lay bare the ideo-political basis(i.e. class interests) of the WSF.



The World Social Forum has emerged as an international platform. It represents the coming into being of a pre-existing political trend. This development has brought forth a qualitative leap in the effectiveness of this pre-existing trend, as was amply evident during the worldwide protests against the invasion of Iraq. The WSF is already a significant trend in the world progressive and anti-imperialist movements. It is likely that this trend will further strengthen itself in coming days. Therefore it is important that class-conscious proletarian forces across the globe correctly appraise the WSF and formulate their tactics with due care and precision. Since the 2004 global meeting is being organized in Mumbai, it becomes all the more pertinent for the Indian Proletariat to do so.

Unfortunately most of those who stake claims to being the class-conscious representatives of the proletariat in India do not take the WSF seriously. They think that it is merely a big annual self-indulgent carnival, therefore something socially and politically insignificant. Incidentally it is not as transient and as sporadic as that. WSF people claim that it is a "developing process". Their claims are not false; Laula and 15th February 2003 are strong evidence that the WSF is a political trend, which proletarian revolutionaries need to reckon with. The meeting in Mumbai in January 2004 is expected to be a gathering of about 1 lakh people, the bulk of which will be poor downtrodden masses---- a prospect which in itself ought to be sufficient to shatter any frog-in-the-well opinions about the WSF. It is high time that proletarian revolutionaries in India begin taking serious notice of this organization.

It is ironical that among the few proletarian revolutionaries who take the WSF seriously, a significant number hail its formation and are in fact busy organizing it. This is not unfortunate. It expresses the ideo-political weakness of our movement. There are others who do not support it, but are present out there entertaining the hope that working clandestinely within the WSF they will be able to wean out radical sections and individuals. Adopting such pragmatic tactics, little do these revolutionaries realize that they are doing the Communist Movement more harm than good because in the present situation all it amounts to is openly working to make the WSF more credible, an outcome which far outweighs the probable petty gains through increase in numbers. Naxalite support for the WSF is breeding long-term illusions among the masses, which is an extremely negative outcome.

Fortunately there have been some Communist Revolutionaries who have made unequivocal attempts to expose the WSF. These efforts are laudable. The exposure in such cases has been centered on two issues----- the issue of massive NGO and revisionist participation in the WSF and the issue of WSF funding by Imperialist corporations/agencies. There is no doubt that such an exposure needs to be carried out, but it is insufficient not only in quantity but qualitatively as well. Qualitatively what is not being done is that the politics of WSF per se is not being exposed. Unless the limitations and the deceptions of WSF politics itself are exposed Communist Revolutionaries will not be advancing the struggle of the working class and the toiling masses. This article is an attempt in this direction. The very manifesto of the WSF called the "Charter of Principles" is subjected to criticism, so as to correctly appraise the WSF. Based on such an appraisal an attempt is made to define tactics.

The WSF ‘Charter of Principles’ is concise and well formulated. It does not mince words about what the WSF is, and what it is not. There is no vagueness about the aim or the means to be used. Therefore it is not difficult to comprehend the underlying ideology and class- interests involved. Before we begin to picking up sections from the ‘Charter of Principles’ and analyzing them we shall take notice of a major and important omission.

The WSF ‘Charter of Principles’ does not talk of class-struggle. It does not accept any role whatsoever for workers organized as a class, in advancing history (the idea of the working class leading other oppressed classes in creating history would be asking for too much!). The WSF does not believe in the class theory of history. That it stands opposed to the concept of workers organized as a class and it actually tries to diffuse class unity is evident not only from the omission of such ideas in the ‘Charter of Principles’ but also by explicit statements on pluralism and anti-centralism. In brief, when the WSF says, "another world is possible", that does not mean "a socialist world is possible".


" 1.The WSF is an open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate on ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences and interlinking for effective action, by groups and movements of civil society that are opposed to neo-liberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to building a planetary society directed towards fruitful relationships among Mankind and between it and the Earth. "

The first point in the ‘Charter of Principles’, quoted above, clearly restricts and defines the aim of the WSF. The WSF is ‘an open meeting place for. … groups and movements.… opposed to neo-liberalism and to the domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism’. The purpose of meeting would be ‘building a planetary society directed towards fruitful relationships among mankind and between it and the earth’.

Well if the declared raison d’être for a forum is not only the negation of the Imperial domination of a particular country, but also the negation of all forms of Imperialism, and not merely Imperialism but of Capital as such, then there ought to be no vagueness in articulating the purpose. There should be no obfuscation. Elementary economic theory states that Capital cannot be negated without eliminating private property. Political theory states that the task of eliminating private property can be addressed by only one class in human history organized as the ruling power i.e. the elimination of private property in all its forms requires the dictatorship of the proletariat. The elimination of private property, more over, cannot be accomplished under the dictatorship of the proletariat in a short time through certain government decrees and bureaucratic actions. It requires this dictatorship for a fairly long time and on a world scale so as to provide space for a series of class struggles, which will actually eliminate of private property relations in the economic and social spheres.

Why does not the WSF set itself the clear-cut task of eliminating private property so as to end ‘the domination of the world by capital and any form of Imperialism’? Why does not the WSF talk of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the only political form under which this can be accomplished? Why does the WSF obfuscate things by stating a generalized commitment to ‘building a planetary society directed towards fruitful relationships among mankind and between it and the earth’? Is it because of ignorance of economic and political theory? Had the WSF been created by naive, illiterate peasants at the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century one could have believed that, that might be the case. But the WSF came in to existence in 2001 i.e. after mankind had gathered almost six decades of political experience in the work of negating private property. The WSF has not been set up and is not being regulated by peasants who have not read the history of the 20th century. It has been set up and is being run by men and women acquainted with the theory of Scientific Socialism. Any genuine attempts to negate Imperialism and Capitalism in the 21st century demands that the work be based on a concrete scientific summing up of the experiences of the Russian and Chinese revolutions. It should be based on a clearer conception and formulation of the task at hand, than that which happened to be the starting point for the Russian or the Chinese Proletariat. The avoidance and obfuscation out here is deliberate.

There are definite class-interests behind the obfuscation. The intention is to stop the proletariat of the world leading other oppressed classes and peoples’ into Socialism. It is to stop the proletariat from setting up its dictatorship i.e. to stop the proletariat from creating the only political form under which Capital can actually be negated. Expressed in other words it means preventing the workers and other oppressed masses from attaining revolutionary consciousness by spreading all sorts of diverse and utopian ideas on the negation of Imperialism and Capital i.e. to confuse the scenario and there by scatter the impending attack.


"9. The WSF will always be a forum open to pluralism and to the diversity of activities and ways of engaging of the organizations and movements that decide to participate in it, as well as the diversity of genders, ethnicities, cultures, generations and physical capacities, providing they abide by this Charter of Principals. Neither party representations nor military organizations shall participate in the Forum. Government leaders and members of legislators who accept the commitments of this Charter may be invited to participate in a personal capacity".

The thrust here and elsewhere is very clear. The WSF is against unitarism of any kind and it stands for pluralism and diversity, not merely in some specific situation but as an all-embracing all-time general principle. This is an extra-ordinarily post-modernist anti-socialist position. It is a clear expression that the WSF does not believe in grand narratives, whether they be the establishment of the capitalist nation-state (by wiping out feudal principalities, guilds and other types of pre-capitalist diversity) or the building of Socialism (by ending the market and anarchy of capitalism through unitary and centralist measures). The statement is not qualified by any "if’s and but’s" or by any other means. It is an unambiguous position that the WSF does not accept that at times in history efforts at reducing pluralism and diversity i.e. attempts at centralization and unitarism happen to be very progressive measures.

Class-conscious proletarian fighters have on many occasions supported ethnic, national and other types of movements of oppressed peoples’. But this support has always been situation specific. It has never been general or unconditional. Class-conscious proletarian fighters recognize the objective fact that almost all the plurality and diversity of forms of economic, social and political life that we see at the beginning of the 21st century are forms of life with gender and class-oppression built into them (this is true for most present day tribal communities as well, they too have their chiefs, witch doctors, priests etc.). Speaking in historical terms, these forms of life should not be eternally preserved. They need to be replaced by a new non-oppressive form of economic, political and social life, which ensures human dignity. However, since at present such cultures, ethnic tribes, nations etc. are subjugated by Imperialism or other predator nations/ states/ institutions who undermine, exploit and ruin these peoples’, therefore the question of violation of a peoples’ right to self determination arises. It is a question of political democracy. Proletarian revolutionaries demand that Imperialism & Predator nations/ states/ institutions stop subjugating backward peoples’ and allow them to self-determine their destiny. It is normally in such a context that proletarian revolutionaries support the struggles of oppressed peoples’. But once the peoples achieve freedom and are no longer oppressed by predator nations/states/institutions, then proletarian revolutionaries do not advocate the retention of such backward plurality or diversity. Proletarian revolutionaries advice such peoples to use their self-determination to get rid of their backwardness and internal oppression as well. If such advice is welcomed, the class-conscious proletariat is ever ready to not only guide but also even provide these backward peoples’ material assistance for their advancement.

The theory of Scientific Socialism also recognizes the fact that the general drive of the world capitalist system is towards unitarism and centralization. The mode of capitalist exploitation despite enhancing the unevenness of development produces unitarism in economic relations and conditions of production. Consequently diversity in social and cultural life is reduced. This is something very progressive because for the first time in human history a basis for a truly international social and cultural life is created, for the first time in human history a truly international class ----- the modern proletariat ----- comes into existence. This is the only social grouping or class advanced enough to be able to create a genuinely humane non-exploitative social order across the globe, something qualitatively better than all diverse cultures existing on the basis of present and past modes of production.

The class conscious proletariat understands that in its striving for such a genuinely humane non-exploitative world order it needs to first liberate all oppressed people and classes before such an order can be established i.e. that the most complete political democracy needs to be established before advances into Communism can be made. This requirement makes the international proletariat the staunchest and the most consistent fighter for political democracy. And this is the prime reason why groups and people oppressed by Imperialism and other predator nations/states/institutions accept the class-conscious proletariat as an ally and leader. Put concisely the class-conscious proletariat can never be a blind supporter of diversity, pluralism or federalism in all situations. As soon as Imperial and other kind of exogenous subjugation ends, the need to get rid of plurality and diversity based on economic and social backwardness arises. As soon as political democracy is achieved the proletariat advocates unification and merger on a free and voluntary basis, so as to achieve production and governance on larger scale. The WSF position of "always" being open to pluralism and diversity is in fact an attempt to preserve want, superstition, gender oppression, parochialism etc. The political origin of this inclination to preserve social backwardness is WSF’s prejudice against Socialism.

Secondly a blanket ban on "party representations" and "military organizations" from participating in a body that wants to oppose Imperialism and Capital is an absurdity since all parties and militaries are not reactionary, since there do exist progressive militaries and parties that could strengthen an anti-imperialist anti-capitalist forum. This WSF position is not merely an absurdity; it is also a conscious attempt to preserve the status–quo. Today, Imperialists and Capitalists are organized in to parties and militaries. If anti-capitalists/ anti-imperialists look down upon and denounce the building of armies and parties, this means that the Imperial/Capitalist system can never be wiped out because the struggling people are being prevented from organizing themselves at a higher level (in the most organized and militant forms). In fact any broad based anti-capitalist/ anti-imperialist platform should actually be having a seasoned proletarian party guiding it and a progressive army protecting it. Such guidance and protection would strengthen the broad based peoples’ platform instead of harming it, as the organizers of WSF are trying to propagate.

But the opposition to the parties and armies is not merely to the extent of it being an organizational rule for entry into the WSF. Had the dislike been limited to this, the WSF would still be tolerable. The bigger problem is that the WSF opposes the parties and armies as a general principle. It does not want any peoples’ struggle developing to the level of an armed struggle. It stands opposed to armed struggle by the people anywhere and at any time.


"10. The WSF is opposed to all totalitarian and reductionist views on economy, development and history and to the use of violence as a means of social control by the state…"

"13. As a context for inter relations, the WSF seeks to strengthen and create new national and international links among organizations and movements of society, that — in both public and private life -- will increase the capacity for non-violent social resistance in the process of dehumanization the world is undergoing and to the violence used by the state, and reinforce the humanizing measures being taken by the action of these movements and organizations".

Clause 10 of the WSF ‘Charter of Principals’ is the repetition of an old bourgeoisie ploy to create the illusion that there can be states that do not "violence as a means of social control". This ploy helps increase the longevity of the bourgeoisie order. Marxism rejects the idea lock, stock and barrel that there can ever be a state (including a socialist state), or there has ever been a state that does not use violence. Even at times when violence is not being openly used the threat of violence is always present. Had it not been so, the state apparatus would have been useless in a class-society. In its essence the state is an institution for the oppression of one or many classes by the class in power. This holds for all class societies. Socialism also being a class society, contains a state-machinery for the repression of bourgeoisie-roaders; but unlike capitalism it is a class-society of another type i.e. a society in which the state-machinery uses violence and the threat of violence against the minority in the interests of the majority and not vice-versa. The state will not be an institution for repression and use of violence only in a classless society; in fact such a society will not have a state, it will be a stateless society, communism. The concept of a non-violent state and of a supra-class state is an illusion that the bourgeoisie festers. Marxists have always strived to expose this illusion. Present day Marxists should not become instruments in re-spreading this illusion.

Clause 13 of the WSF ‘Charter of Principles’ openly and unequivocally states that the WSF decides to fight state violence by "non-violent social resistance". There are no ‘ifs’ and but’s’, the position is explicitly stated. The WSF rejects the use of violence and advocates "non-violent social resistance" as a general principle. This is pure and simple Gandhianism. It means rejection of the right of the people to pick up arms. It means rejection of the right of people to offer armed resistance to imperialist intervention and conspiracies.

One needs to be a child to believe that the organizers of the WSF do not understand the full import of what they state as principle. The idea of restricting the peoples’ struggle against imperialism and capitalism to non-violent forms of resistance is not stated in naivety. The statement is preceded by forethought; it is a well-considered position. It is a clear and undisguised attempt to weaken and restrict the peoples’ struggle, to preserve the imperialist order while talking of opposing it. One is not being unnecessarily hot headed when one levels a charge as great as that at the WSF. The WSF in itself, as an organization is not even prepared to wage and lead "non-violent social resistance". It is not even prepared to tread Gandhi’s path (Mao’s path is already rejected in principle). This design becomes evident as soon as one examines the organizational set up. The ‘Charter of Principles’ contains a clause that self-restricts the WSF to an anti-imperialist role even weaker than Gandhi’s Congress.


"6. The meetings of WSF do not deliberate on behalf of the WSF as a body. No one therefore will be authorized, on behalf of any of the editions of the Forum, to express positions claiming to be those of all its participants. The participants in the Forum shall not be called on to take decisions as a body, whether by vote or acclamation, or declaration or proposals for action that would commit all, or the majority of them and that propose to be taken as establishing positions of the Forum as a body. It thus does not constitute a locus of power to be disputed by the participants in its meetings, nor does it intend to constitute the only option for inter relation and action by the organizations and movements that participate in it".

This probably is the most diffused organizational structure ever conceived for a peoples’ platform that intends taking on foes as formidable as Imperialism and Capitalism. One can be saying and doing almost anything and still be a part of the WSF. The WSF is not committed to even issuing a joint newspaper statement, the question of organizing and leading a practical anti-imperialist struggle does not even arise.

Mao’s United Front killed and expelled the Japanese Imperialists from China. Gandhi’s Congress was a toothless organization that whimpered, cried, screamed and at times pushed the British. The WSF is not even a sack of Potatoes that could sprain the kicker’s foot. For Imperialism and Capitalism its organizational cohesivity is no more than that of a pile of popcorn. Organizationally it is incapable of putting up any real fight against Imperialism/Capitalism. Its organizational cohesivity is even lower than that of a trade union. As a body the WSF cannot even pass a formal resolution.

But despite this the WSF exists as a platform with an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist posture. As a platform, the extent of its influence amongst the masses and social activists is visible every year during the annual gatherings. Therefore despite its spinelessness, it represents a troublesome trend in the anti-imperialist movement.


Before ending this article we need to take up the fundamental question "Whose class-interests does the WSF represent? " It is on the basis of a correct answer to this fundamental question that proletarian revolutionaries should decide their tactics with respect to the WSF.

Obviously the WSF does not represent the proletariat. It neither represents the semi-proletarian (rural or urban) masses. At the same time it does not directly represent the bourgeoisie (or the Imperialists). It dislikes and rejects the dictatorship of both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. It expresses the dream of the petty bourgeoisie. Specifically speaking its positions are not even the position of the peasantry (a large section of the petty bourgeoisie in most countries). Specifically speaking its position is the utopia of the urbanized petty- bourgeoisie. An utopia because, if by some quirk of fate the petty- bourgeoisie actually does manage to come to power it immediately abandons its program (i.e. setting up of the non-violent state, creation of a planetary society that is neither Capitalism nor Socialism etc.), and it immediately begins refining and consolidating the bourgeoisie order. A Laula coming to power does not begin smashing the existing state machinery; on the contrary it expresses itself as the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie asserting it self once again.

What tactical conclusions should be drawn based on the above analysis of the WSF, and based on general Marxist theory?

In the first place any prospective associator to the WSF should be dissuaded from joining the WSF. The dissuasion needs to be done not merely on the basis of organizational composition (revisionist/ NGO participation) or on the basis of dubious funding sources as pointed out earlier; the dissuasion should be based mainly on an expouser of the political essence of the WSF. At most any organization that claims to represent the class-conscious proletariat may associate with the WSF by forming a United Front with it. In no way should representatives of the class-conscious proletariat permit themselves to become a part of the WSF i.e. they should not treat the WSF itself as a United Front. The program of the WSF is not the program of a United Front to which the revolutionary proletariat can be a party. The program of the WSF is a program that opposes revolution and revolutionary struggles.

Second, the thesis of a communist revolutionary takeover of WSF from within needs to be rejected and abandoned. The rejection is necessary because the WSF is not a weak anti-imperialist platform (like a factory trade union), which communist revolutionary forces can strengthen and develop upon take over. The WSF is a platform that is basically wrong in its ‘Principles’. The fundamental principles of the WSF are reactionary, only the façade and the fanfare appear to be anti-imperialist. Thus there is no scope for improving the WSF without re-writing its fundamental principles or in other words without re-constituting it. Moreover there is not the slightest possibility of a communist revolutionary takeover of the WSF because the WSF does not operate in a democratic manner i.e. on the basis of votes, binding resolutions etc. There is no way that the WSF can be converted in to a more radical and democratic body.

Third, the thesis that communist revolutionary forces should enter the WSF with the intention of spotting, winning over and weaning out radical elements that happen to be there in the WSF, also needs to be rejected and a abandoned. There is a chance that communist revolutionary forces may actually be able to wean out and absorbs some radical elements that they associate with in the WSF. But this tactic does more harm than good, because the participation of Communist Revolutionaries in the WSF adds credibility and substance to the very illusions that the WSF is spreading in society. So far the sake of a small swelling in their ranks proletarian revolutionaries will be compromising the actual political interests of their mission. This is dangerous and could even be suicidal for the organization concerned. The main reason for not adopting such tactics is that today proletarian revolutionaries are not strong enough to be able to counter illusions that WSF is spreading, by conducting independent propaganda in society. Had proletarian revolutionaries been strong internationally and at the national level, their independent propaganda could have countered the WSF illusions. But in the present weak situation only the support part of their critical support is carried to the mass, the criticism (from within WSF and independently outside) gets lost in the WSF din. Therefore proletarian revolutionaries should not enter the WSF on the basis of critical support. Proletarian revolutionaries should attempt to influence and attract radical elements in the WSF by political propaganda from without.

Fourth, the WSF needs to be politically discredited and exposed thoroughly and consistently. Proletarian Revolutionaries should not make the mistake of ignoring it. The political line of the WSF (rejection of Socialism, blanket support for plurality, rejection of organizational structures, anti-pathy to armed struggle and generalized advocacy of non-violence etc.) needs to be exposed in its entire post-modernism. The practical acts of the WSF also need to be sensibly criticized.

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