Valentine M. Moghadam
Is it time for a world political party, as Heikki Patomäki argues? I think it is, although I agree with some of the critiques, such as overreliance on the idea of global civil society, the need for more specificity, and absence of an analysis of capitalism. Not so long ago, many activists—including those of us with backgrounds in centralized political formations—found “horizontal” movements and networks refreshing in their diversity, nonviolence, and direct democracy. But they came and went, and the capitalist world-system remained the same. Worse, the hegemon and its allies were able to destabilize countries in the Middle East and North Africa, invade and occupy, and foment civil conflicts. While people across the globe suffer the ravages of neoliberal capitalism, war, and climate change, the political and economic elites continue to party annually at Davos.
In recent years, we have seen renewed calls for more concerted political action, coordination, and platforms. In a 2006 essay, and more recently before his passing in August 2018, Samir Amin called for a Fifth International. In a number of articles since at least 2009, Christopher Chase-Dunn and his colleagues have examined prospects for the World Revolution of 20xx spearheaded by the New Global Left—groups critical of neoliberal capitalist globalization and which include popular forces, social movements, and progressive political parties and national regimes. Like Chase-Dunn and others, including the “Group of Nineteen” who penned the 2005 Porto Alegre Manifesto, I felt that the World Social Forum constituted a site for such planning and coordination, if only it would revise its Charter of Principles and allow for the formulation of a political program and for cooperation with progressive political parties.1 But many within the WSF prefer that it remain a forum for dialogue.
In his 2006 essay, Samir Amin asks, who will challenge the new imperialist order, and how? After criticizing those who “wish to maintain the WSF in a state of maximal impotence,” he takes a look back at the First, Second, and Third Internationals (he mentions in passing the Fourth, or Trotskyist, International), and concludes that it is time to move towards a Fifth International. I agree.
The record of the recent past, as well the rise and spread of right-wing populist movements, parties, and governments in Europe, the United States, and Global South, make the call for concerted political action and coordination all the more urgent. The new movements draw on the support of hardened right-wingers as well as citizens who have been left behind by decades of neoliberal economic policy, austerity, and neglect. Such citizens also are fearful of the economic and cultural effects of the massive wave of immigrants and refugees—in turn the result of neoliberal economic policies, state destabilizations, and wars. Such citizens blame the established parties for the migrant and refugee influx as well as the welfare cuts, and they trust that the new right-wing parties can turn the tide. All such parties and governments are decidedly and dangerously anti-feminist.
Parallel to the rise of the Global Right are progressive alternatives such as Bernie Sanders’s Our Revolution in the US, the British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, Spain’s Podemos, Portugal’s Left Bloc, Tunisia’s Front Populaire, and left-wing Green parties in many countries, including the US. What is missing is a coordinating mechanism for coalition-building with trade unions and feminist organizations to form a powerful alliance of transnational social movement organizations and progressive political parties that could challenge the powers that be. A starting place could be the recent call for a Progressive International, an initiative of the (Bernie) Sanders Institute in Vermont and DiEM25, co-founded by Yanis Varoufakis.2
Having missed recent opportunities to forge a sustained global movement against the ravages of neoliberal capitalist globalization and its many side effects, surely it is time for strategic movement-building and a united front. It is worth noting that many of the right-wing populist-nationalist parties and leaderships which have formed or won elections in recent years seem to be in some form of regular contact with each other, in part through that roving ambassador of the populist-nationalist Right, Steve Bannon. Similarly, the various Islamist parties and movements around the world, especially those of the Muslim Brotherhood variant, have ways of connecting and sharing. (Islamist parties are part of the Global Right. As Amin noted in his many critiques, Islamist movements are preoccupied with cultural issues rather than capitalism and do not offer plans to improve the people’s socioeconomic conditions and rights.)
For our part, it must be possible to create a coordinating mechanism that would connect the many disparate struggles—such as the gilets jaunes protests in France—around a common goal of creating a world in which what matters most is the welfare of the people and planet and not the profits and power of businesses, elites, or self-serving political parties. That would mean something like a very clear, very coherent platform – one that could mobilize the largest number of adherents around core issues, even if some people might not agree on some of the accompanying issues and values.
Any new international would be different from past internationals, more inclusive and less dogmatic, and certainly with the participation of many more women than was the case before, but still with a definite structure, coherent platform, and leadership capable of taking “the movement” forward in a more strategic manner at national, regional, and global levels. Calls for a world political party or a Fifth International must be taken seriously. A return to a more formal organizing structure with clear political goals and a unified strategy is surely the path to take.
1. Available at www.archive.is/20051112235616/http://www.zmag.org/sustainers/content/2005-02/20group_of_nineteen.cfm.
2. See https://www.progressive-international.org/open-call/.