7 March 2005
One more comment on the Porto Alegre Consensus Manifesto, the ‘12 recommendations… which, if they were applied, would permit citizens to at last seize control again of their future.’ Just another organisational dog-fight between lefties? Actually, this is one of the most important arguments that the left is having today, about the nature of people power and change, and whether the left have learnt anything at all since the last time around.Danger signs recognisable to anyone present then are the sudden ‘on-behalfism’ of the project by those who are well-known but self-appointed; the use of the word ‘concrete’; and the voluntarism or ‘possibilism’ of ‘if applied’ i.e. the failure to understand that although these global recommendations might well be practical if citizens controlled the world’s future, that is the sine qua non. By turning them into a rhetorical precondition for citizens ‘to at last seize control again of their future’, the Manifesto signatories consign their proposals to the dustbin of history before they have even started. Note the circularity involved in making another world possible by saying it’s possible… In other words, they are no clearer than the last time around. The idea behind this manifesto and indeed all traditional forms of leadership is quasi-military, or would be if military matters had not moved on from the brute force of numbers of foot-soldiers. But people power today is based on jaw-jaw, not war-war. It is based on producers and consumers of wealth finding very different ways to understand the world they live in, very different ways to understand the one they would like to live in, and very different forms of empowerment and self-organisation to experiment with until they succeed. This self-taught, pluralist encounter by definition cannot be led from above, even if they were open-minded. Hence our weariness with electoral politics all over the world. The right will poke fun at the chaos - as has always been the case – look for example at what E.M.Forster has to say on the tercentenary of Milton’s ‘Areopagitica’ in 1944 about the Nazi assumption that British variety of debate would be a fatal weakness in WW2. But they are ignoring at their peril the conclusions which come from complex systems analysis (cybernetics) and chaos theory suggesting the intimate link of chaos and creativity. The WSF got it right in its founding moments. The next time the left knows what it is doing will be through and not despite this creative chaos.