Anti-globalisation + alter-mundialisation + 15-M

Jordi Calvo
Member and researcher of the Delás Centre for Peace and Justice Studies, the Centre of Social Movement Studies (UPF) and the Interuniversity Institute of Social Development and Peace (UJI, Castellón)
Jordi Calvo

Jordi Calvo

The 15-M movement has a number of features which may have made it a natural development of the modus operandi of the recent social movements - the anti-globalisation and alter-mundialisation movements.

The labour movement, which has mainly been channelled through the traditional trade unions, has suffered from a clear loss of legitimacy in the twenty-first century. However, it is still alive and before the 15-M movement, it was the only movement capable of showing any degree of resistance to the new liberalising reforms.  The new social movements, which are mainly identified with environmentalism, pacifism and feminism, have entered the new century in rude health, and this has enabled them to place their sectorial demands on the political agenda, after having done so within society as a whole. A great deal of legislative and cultural progress has been towards women's equality, environmental sustainability and the rejection of war and violence. There are also many other movements that remain strong to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the circumstances, such as the student and neighborhood residents movement, the fight against racism and xenophobia, and international solidarity. There are many others that came together in the so-called antiglobalisation movement in the 1990s, which sought to provide an answer the neoliberal offensive that took place after the fall of the Berlin Wall by combining their efforts as much as possible.

The various groups involved in the anti-globalisation protests joined forces. They called for fairer trading and economic relationships in a world in which the free-market trend towards globalisation was leading to states losing political control over their own destiny. Their protests mobilised a generation which at one point, like the 15-M generation, had been written off, and to a certain extent succeeded in halting the wave of deregulation and including criticism of capitalism's neoliberal globalisation in political discourse. In response to the criticism that it was only a protest movement, a means of creating ideas was established that led to the World Social Forum (WSF) and to the thousands of social forums that have been created since. Old and new movements came together in the social forums, establishing schools of activists who merged their strategies for protest and created a political discourse. The World Social Forum has made great strides in coordinating movements in different parts of the world, helping them to learn from each other and presenting alternatives to neoliberalism and capitalism, but its media impact has lessened with the passing of time and its main achievement has been to have ended the paradigm that there is no alternative to the policies of ever-increasing neo-liberal globalisation, with its familiar slogan of "another world is possible", which is no mean feat. However, its impact has perhaps been more of a cultural nature within the movements themselves, because with its new modus operandi, the WSF has encouraged what we might call "alter-mundialisation", which may at least be based on the emancipation of the human being, the praxis or implementation of systemic alternatives, respect and even reverence for diversity and nonviolence as the only consistent way to build an alternative to today's violent capitalism.

If we consider what has taken place so far in the streets of Spain and in some parts of the world, the 15-M movement undoubtedly incorporates these four items. Diversity was an essential factor among who camped in the squares and took part in the movement's protest initiatives. They have even gone further, and included people with a perhaps more moderate outlook (politically speaking) than the Social Forums attract. The implementation of alternatives to the system that they question and that angers them is emerging in the squares and now in the decentralised assemblies which are based on horizontality, solidarity and gender equality. Emancipation is based on their proposal for a more direct and participatory democracy, or on the self-management of the squares, which resemble the existing social forums (or vice versa). Finally, the assumption of non-violent methods in all their actions and for the organisation of their own space is essential. The 15-M movement is facing a new neoliberal offensive, which is exploiting the crisis, and is being undertaken in order to undertake a final assualt on the last redoubt that is not totally controlled by the markets - the European welfare state.

The 15-M movement appears to have learnt from recent social movements and has also achieved what they did not - a huge media impact. Perhaps the best way to make the 15-M movement and the social forums into a long-term movement is to consider how they can merge. The social forums can provide content, learning and critical coordination to the 15-M movement. The 15-M movement can bring our new angry citizens to the social forums and use their media impact to raise the profile of their proposals for change. This combination may be the basis for the much-needed transformation of the current system.