South America’s Radical Awakening
By Collin Harris at Jun 04, 2010
Social movements are the engines of historical change. As the absurdity of postmodernism swallows the cultural landscape all around us-from mass pop culture to contemporary scholarship-it becomes increasingly fashionable to reject any notion of human history as a meaningful and mindful movement towards a fundamentally better world. But even a most brief observation of history seems to reveal such an arch, a coherent trajectory towards the collective liberation and fulfillment of humanity. New eras of history emerge out of the confrontations between freedom and oppression. Largely through organized mass political activity, people have freed themselves from the horrors of feudalism, slavery, colonialism, domination. It’s this notion of history, and its implicit conception of human nature, that animates movements for social and political change.
People would simply not participate in such activity if they saw themselves as passive spectators of an external, inevitable historical process rather than as conscious agents of and participants in the movement of history. And while the debilitating “cultural logic of late capitalism” prevails in the affluent consumerist societies of the North, pockets of movement activity persists the world over. One such pocket lies in the Amazonian region of
These movements and broader political developments in the region have enormous implications for the people involved and the societies being directly affected. They are challenging prevailing politico-economic institutional arrangements in their societies, the residue of centuries of colonial imperialism. Local/regional elites and other centers of established power are being challenged on all fronts, igniting fierce reactions and counter-movements. How are these movements affecting political opportunity structures, ownership of wealth and natural resources, economic development and social well-being, and regional/global power alignments? This latter issue plays a central role in the South American context, where you have enormously powerful actors like multi-national corporations and international economic institutions with significant interests at stake in the region.
Other issues to be explored include movement organization and structure; to what extent are they centralized or decentralized, vanguard or participatory? Who are the participants and what are their backgrounds? How does the notion of “established structures of solidarity incentives” apply? From what sectors of society do the movements draw most support? Who (if any) are the patrons of the South American movements? Do the movements have a face, a leader? From where are the material resources and social capital drawn, grassroots or elite largesse? On what associational and communication networks do the movements depend? To what extent do they act independently of each other? Or as trans-nationally coordinated movements?
How does one situate the South American movements into the existing theoretical frameworks that define the literature on social movements and insurgency? In attempting to do so, it is wise to draw from the work of McAdams as a means of locating these South American movements within an overall theoretical framework. How does the classical model of social movements (and its variants) apply to the Amazonian political landscape? Does resource mobilization theory offer sufficient insights into the emergence of social movements to explain the South American context? Or do the deficiencies of these approaches, astutely outlined by McAdams, render them at least insufficient and at most entirely inappropriate for understanding the emergence and persistence of the South American movements? How does the political process model of social movements apply to this context? How organized and engaged is the aggrieved population? Is there a clear articulation and understanding of movement goals and the likelihood of success? Are the political opportunity structures of these societies flexible enough to facilitate insurgency? Finally, how do issues of individual and collective identity factor into these movements? How does the movement process affect the needs, cognitions, and interests of its participants? Is there a clear process of cognitive liberation at work in the Amazon? These are all questions of critical importance in assessing the developments in South America.
The history of the region-including centuries of colonial repression, economic exploitation, and imperial domination-renders the classical model wholly insufficient as a means of explaining the emergence and fruition of the South American movements. While particular variants of the model may provide some insight in specific situations, the fact that all of the branches of the classical model are conceptually connected by a common general causal sequence means they are each inappropriate for the South American context. As noted by McAdams, mass society and status inconsistency theory assume movements to be a form of “extreme” behavior, sought only by maladjusted social isolates, despite empirical evidence to the contrary. Collective behavior theory assumes that a lack of movement activity naturally translates into a lack of social “system” strain.
The causal sequence of the classical model (system strain--tension reaches threshold--movement emerges) treats social movements as largely reactionary responses to external change or systemic strain driven by individual psychological dissonance, rather than as actual agents of the change themselves. Given the long history of perpetual “strain” in the South American context mentioned above, but the relatively recent emergence of organized and effective mass movements, the classical model fails to offer a compelling framework within which to analyze the contemporary South American context. It is because of these fundamental deficiencies that the following analysis will focus on resource mobilization theory, political process, and identity models as applied to the movements in
Popular Power and the Paradox of State-Supported Social Transformation: Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution
The Bolivarian ideology is the symbolic political frame with which the movement identifies and through which the Chavista identity has developed. Despite a very heterogenous cross section of Venezuelan society, with participants motivated by myriad of different interests, it is the values and ideals of the Bolivarian Revolution that animates and sustains the social mobilization that has taken place over the last decade. The movement transcends Chavez. While his leadership is widely viewed as just one possible course of action in the Bolivarian process, one that has indeed served the movement well, “support for him was always contingent on his active commitment to the ideals of the Bolivarian Revolution.” (Ramirez 93)
Who are the “Chavistas” and how are they organized? The Chavistas are a “mostly peaceful and autonomous counter-hegemonic social movement allied with the state…with a long history of organizing, considerable political sophistication, a definite ideological overview” and goals that transcend the Chavez presidency. The hegemonic bloc in Venezuelan society or Coordinadora Democratica (CD)—status-quo political parties, military officers, the Catholic Church hierarchy, national/international private media, business lobbies, the national labor union coordinating body, executives of the state-owned oil company-- is now outside the power structure of the state.(Ramirez 80) This is the hegemonic force against which the Bolivarian movement has mobilized. Ramirez discusses a whole network of Chavista organizations, mostly non-state financed, engaged in consciousness raising and political education, increasing civil political participation, democratizing economic production, coordinating resources available from the state at the grassroots level, and planning/implementing social policy. All of which is political action insofar as they are ideologically aligned with the Bolivarian movement and seek to further the cause of the Revolution.
In addition to the popular masses of the country, the Chavista social movement network includes popular associations, classical leftist organizations (communist/socialist parties, progressive church groups, student organizations) as well alternative leftist women’s, gay/lesbian organizations, etc. Transcending social classes and divisions, “this left sector includes people from the popular classes as well as the middle-class and university-educated” and even includes some sectors of the security forces. The Bolivian Worker’s Force (FBT) is a Chavista coordinating body of 455 unions founded in 2000 to facilitate decentralization of the political process through worker participation and bring an end to representative “democracy”, and “constitutes an institutional structure for political education.”(Ramirez 88)
The FBT is part of the larger National Union of Venezuelan Labor (UNT), a progressive union formed after the 2002 coup attempt to break from the conservative status quo unions and support the Bolivarian process. Progressive labor unions have played a primary role in the organization and politicization of the working class. The Circulos Bolivarianos are grassroots units of the larger Bolivarian movement. Designed to disseminate Bolivarian ideology and promote community participation, “the Circulos may be thought of as cells that participate in larger organizations” like a Chavista workplace, university, labor organization, or civic association.(Ramirez 85) Neighborhood development associations acts as sources of funding for community development projects, cooperatives, and resource distribution. Neighborhood assemblies and local political infrastructure pre-date the Chavez era, which served as crucial resources for seizing the systemic political space afforded by the election of Chavez in 1998. “Many Chavistas are seasoned supporters of a larger revolutionary process that values the expansion of direct participatory democracy, extension of public powers to civil society, and development of social policies that prioritize the poor with the goal of changing the traditional power relations in Venezuela and internationally.”(Ramirez 91)
The most striking characteristic of the Bolivarian Revolution is the active and supportive role played by the state in facilitating the transformation of Venezuelan society. Defying historical experience, the movement has managed to effectively harness the enormous organizational, distributive, and mobilizing power of the state in service of the goals of the Revolution, the realization of which will (ironically) render the state obsolete. In light of this paradox, analysis of the new Constitution and official policies of the Chavez government, as well as social and economic indicators by which to judge these policies, is absolutely necessary for a clear understanding of
Variables of the classical models of social movement theory are rarely totally absent in cases of social insurgency, but typically fail to comprehensively explain the process. Nonetheless, economic conditions in
While grounded in the pre-Chavez social movement networks and grassroots political infrastructure, movement consolidation and radical social transformation in
The first major initiative of the Chavez government was to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution; 92% of the population supported the call for a constitutional assembly and Chavez supporters won 125 of the assembly’s 131 seats. Following months of debate and deliberation, 72% of the population approved the new constitution on
With the creation of a new constitution,
Articles 71-74 establish four types of referenda to facilitate popular inclusion in the political process: consultative, recall, approving, and rescinding. These mechanisms are used for determining and implementing national policy, treaties, or legislation, maintaining aggressive public oversight over elected officials, and approving constitutional amendments or repealing existing legislation. Prenatal care, family planning, housing, health care, and employment are all guaranteed by the state, including access to educational and cultural resources. For the first time, the Venezuelan constitution recognizes the indigenous population’s right to autonomy and preservation of language, culture, and territory and seeks to promote indigenous culture via bilingual education programs, intellectual property rights, and guaranteed representation in the National Assembly. It guarantees protection and expansion of natural resources, environmental sustainability, biodiversity, and national parks and requires environmental/socio-cultural impact reports for activity with detrimental ecological impact.(Wilpert 36)
The traditional three-branch government structure was expanded to include five branches. In addition to the legislative, executive, and judicial branches is included an electoral and citizen branches. The former regulates elections via the national electoral council (CNE); the latter includes the attorney general, comptroller general, and defender of the people to protect the interests of the public and ensure morally and legally sound administration by the state. Articles 333 and 350 state that citizens “have an obligation to reestablish the validity of the constitution” via civil disobedience and “disavow any regime, legislation, or authority that contradicts the values, principles, and democratic guarantees or impairment of human rights.”(40) Finally, the constitution commits the state to promoting economic development, national industry, agriculture, and smaller sectors of fishing, cooperative, tourism, crafts, and small businesses. While execution of such sweeping reforms is of course a complicated and flawed process, the new constitution of the
Participatory democracy is a core value of the Bolivarian Movement, and is achieved through a number of institutional arrangements: referenda, local public planning and communal councils, social oversight, citizen assemblies, and civil society involvement in state institutions. The functions of the referenda are discussed above, and are a fundamental check on institutional power for the general population. The Local Public Planning Councils (CLPP) and Communal Councils “represent the most far-reaching transformation of Venezuelan political life on the day-to-day level.”(Wilpert 56) Established via Article 182, the CLPP’s are constituted by the major, municipal council, district council presidents, neighborhood association delegates, and civil society representatives. The planning councils develop and evaluate proposals for community development projects, workplace organization, investment proposals, coordinate resource distribution, etc. Social audit powers are incorporated into the CLPP and are another crucial means of citizen oversight of public administration. The constitution also grants all Venezuelan citizens the right to exercise the power of a social audit through requests for an accounting of all financial and other activities of any public institution. Participation is on a volunteer basis and the CLPP’s are an effective grassroots vehicle for the mobilization of popular forces behind the Bolivarian Movement.(Wilpert 56)
To address the problems of scale, financing, and inter-institutional conflict, in 2005 it was decided that the CLPP’s would be complemented by a system of Communal Councils. The Ministry for Popular Participation and Social Development had implemented over 20,000 Communal Councils in 335 municipalities by the end of 2006. Consisting of about 200-400 families in urban areas and 20 families in rural areas (anyone over the age of 15 can participate); this smaller scale facilitates direct, democratic self-management.(Wilpert 60) Contrary to the CLPP’s, Communal Council decisions are binding and override mayoral or other administrative decisions. Meetings are convened via general assemblies of all participating families. Another feature of the Communal Council is that they integrate the network of civic-social committees that has proliferated under Chavez: urban housing, land, health, water committees, etc. Committee representatives are incorporated into the executive councils of the general assemblies. This feature was codified into law in April 2006. Chavez committed $1.5 billion to the councils in 2006 and increased it to $5 billion in 2007, “representing a significant redirection of state funds, away from governors and mayors and towards the communal councils.” Roughly 30% of state funds allocated for local/regional governments go to the councils as of 2007, with the National Assembly seeking to increase this to 50%. This context illuminates the central paradox of the Venezuelan experience: the state (captured by the Bolivarian Movement) actively promoting the transformation of society by funding “a council system that would create a governing structure that runs parallel to the existing representative democratic structures, but which is based on direct democratic councils.”(Wilpert 61)
Citizen Assemblies are another institutional feature of the new participatory culture of
The economic programs of the Bolivian Movement are organized on the basis of solidarity; the creation of a “social economy” through the democratization of economic institutions. Wilpert identifies five interrelated initiatives that are central to the Bolivarian transition: redistribution of wealth, promotion of cooperatives, creation of “nuclei of endogenous development,” industrial co-management, and social production enterprises.(Wilpert 77) Considerable wealth redistribution has been achieved through the Bolivarian urban/rural land reform programs and the expansion of credit for the country’s poor to promote micro-enterprises. A network of micro-credit banks were established to service the poor population, while the normal banking sector is required to allocate 3% of their financing portfolios to micro-credit borrowers ($500 million in 2005). A rapidly growing cooperative movement in
Industrial co-management is made possible through worker-managed factories. The Chavez government experimented with state-owned electric, aluminum, and paper plants by incorporating workers into the decision-making process via company worker committees that are advisory boards to the management. Worker-state co-management in the industrial sector is preferred because the arena of interests affected by such enterprises transcends the enterprise itself, requiring some means of public involvement. Endogenous development implies that resources, skills, and materials come from within the country or community being developed.(Wilper 80) Through educational programs and financing for start-up projects, the state hopes to advance five priorities of national development: primarily agriculture and industrial production, plus infrastructure, tourism, and services. The Nuclei of Endogenous Sustianable Development (Nudes) are specific communities chosen for such developmental programs, with 149 throughout the country by 2005. Chavez’s Mission About Face is devoted to transforming the existing economic model into one of endogenous/sustainable development by providing resources to the cooperatives within the Nudes program.
In addition to these grassroots initiatives, the Chavez government has reasserted Venezuelan economic sovereignty through the nationalization of core industries (primarily oil), currency controls and prevention of capital flight, and reduced exposure to the systematic volatility of global market forces. GDP nearly doubled by 94.7% in the five years following nationalization of the oil sector, the majority of which was diversified (non-oil sector) growth. Not including vastly increased access to health/education services, poverty decreased from 54% in 2003 to 26 % in 2008, while extreme poverty fell by 72%. Per capita social spending tripled while inequality decreased significantly. Social security beneficiaries doubled, as did higher education admission rates. Infant mortality rates fell while public primary physicians increased by a factor of 12. Total public debt has been cut in half, while foreign debt by nearly two-thirds.(Weisbrot 1) By any measure, the Bolivarian Movement has seen considerable success in their economic programs.
The social policies of the Bolivarian Movement seek the “universalization of social rights, reduction of inequality in wealth, income, and quality of life, and the appropriation of the public realm as a collective good.” (Wilpert 105) The 1999 constitution guaranteed access to education, health care, housing, employment, and social security. With 5% of the landowners owning 75% of all land in
Three institutions developed out of the program: the National Land Institute for land tenancy and redistribution, National Rural Development Institute for technical assistance and infrastructure, and Venezuelan Agricultural Corporation for distribution and commercialization of output.(Wilpert 111-12) By 2005, 3 million hectares of land had been transferred to over 200,000 families. Urban land reform programs aimed to provide land titles to residents of the barrios (urban slums). To organize the process, 5,600 land committees representing millions of Venezuelans developed to coordinate the redistribution programs with the government, and constitute the single largest civil society movement in the country.(Wilpert 118) Their aims are to allow popular participation in the regularization of land titles, self-government (barrio charters), and transformation of the barrios through improved services, utilities, beautification, and security. Through these measures and the introduction of cultural programs and social networks, the revitalization of the barrio communities is well underway.
Educational programs are a centerpiece of the Bolivarian Movement. Access to education is a social right guaranteed by the constitution, which prohibits enrollment fees for public schools. The state provides universal access to pre-school education for all kids under age 6, while the elementary enrollment rates (age 6-11) is at 99%. A system of “Bolivarian schools” was introduced that provide day-long programs that provide childcare for parents, regular meals, access to community, and educational/cultural/sports activities. By 2004, 3,600 of these schools were opened and serving 700,000 children from mostly poor communities. Bolivarian high school systems were developed with focus on holistic, transdisciplinary curriculums to address the high dropout rate. Initial programs involved 259 high schools with 128,000 students, with plans for progressive expansion. The
Health care is another social right guaranteed by the constitution. Access to public hospitals is provided regardless of insurance. Per capita public health expenditures nearly doubled and overall health indicators have improved. Billions of dollars have been allocated for the improvement of existing medical services and infrastructure. The Fund for National Development (Fonden) was created, financed by excess reserve currency (reserves have a ceiling of $30 billion). This acts as a special government spending account and is an additional stream of revenue for economic development, providing billions of dollars for national investments. In 2005 alone, $6 billion was transferred to the account, $1.5 billion of which was used for improving national health equipment and facilities. (Wilpert 75) The Mission Barrio Adentro program exists in 320 of the country’s 355 municipalities and employs 13,000 Cuban doctors and 29 Venezuelan general practitioners. Since its implementation, the program has provided 45 million doctor consultations and saves the lives of 25,000 children annually by providing primary and preventive care. The second and third phases of the program include the construction of a network of 9,500 community health centers and the financing/resources necessary for their operation. A new public housing ministry was formed to address the severe housing crisis in
To provide basic sustenance during the transitional period and economic recession of 2001-2002, Plan Bolivar 2000 distributed thousands of tons of mostly free food between 1999 and 2001. Mision Mercal started in 2003 to provide food to poor communities at low prices. With a network of over 3,800 local markets, it provides 4,700 tons of food per day to over 11 million Venezuelans (43% of the population). The Casas de Alimentacion provides food at half-price to 2 million people of the poorest communities, in addition to the network of Popular Bolivarian Cafeterias that serve 600,000 people in extreme poverty. Mision Negra Hipolita alleviates critical poverty by providing health, shelter, food, and rehabilitation programs. The Mision Madres
The Bolivarian Movement is a revolutionary process rooted in the social movement networks and civil society organizations of
The author places great emphasis on issues concerning changes in the political opportunity structures of Bolivian society to better understand the broader changes ushered in by the indigenous movements. Van Cott points to a series of institutional changes in
Another significant change in the formal institutionalized system of Bolivian politics was the decline of established status-quo political parties, provoking a shift in elite political alignments and creating the conditions for a new “counter-elite.” For the two decades following Bolivia’s 1982 return to representative polyarchy, Bolivian electoral politics were largely dominated by General Hugo Banzer’s center-right Accion Democratica Nacional (ADN), the Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario (MNR), and the Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR). In such a system, “the needs of the poor, indigenous majority have received only rhetorical recognition, with no major party delivering on the promise of political and economic inclusion.”(Van Cott 758) This blend of increasing popular alienation with the concrete reforms of the 1994-1995 period lead to an unprecedented merger of the three dominant parties in 2002 to prevent the election of an “anti-systemic” candidate. “Thus, the axis of competition has shifted from intra-elite competition to competition between the ‘systemic’ and ‘anti-systemic’ parties.” (Van Cott 758) Throughout this process we see a considerable re-distribution of political resources towards excluded groups, the emergence of new political actors able to provoke and capitalize on disruptions of the status quo, and development of a society-wide frame within which to conceive of the struggle--namely, the “systemic” vs. “anti-systemic” frame.
Another major factor in the case of Bolivia is the mobilization and consolidation of indigenous and peasant social movements. To the extent that Bolivia’s indigenous groups are often diverse culturally distinct groups motivated by varying concerns, it is interesting to observe the different motivating factors that activate them into the political process. For example, following the imposition of harsh economic policies under the military regime in the mid-1970’s, 13 Quechua Indians were killed by government troops during protests against agricultural policies hurting
Undoubtedly one of the primary factors in
Following the 1982 transition, lowland indigenous movements began organizing around territorial sovereignty and protection against resource extraction and economic exploitation. The Confederacion Indigena del Oriente Boliviano (CIDOB), established in 1982, had by 1987 encompassed the majority of indigenous groups in the lowland territories. This network of indigenous organizations staged successful, massive demonstrations, marches, blockades, and negotiations with the government in the 1990’s. The movement developed a six-tiered organizational structure encompassing four regional associations for coordinating movement activity and interaction between different branches; the Central de Pueblas Indigenas de Beni (CPIB), Central Indigena de la Region Amazonica Boliviano (CIRABO), Consejo Yuqui, and the Coordinadora Etnica de Santa Cruz (CESC). These umbrella associations, CSUTCB and CIDOB, played an enormously important role in the early mobilization of civic resources and the framing of the indigenous struggle as one encompassing ethnic and economic concerns. In competing with traditional parties for financial resources, indigenous parties benefited from their affiliations with social movements and networks of civic organizations. Labor, expertise, and materials from students and university professors were another line of support.(Van Cott 768)
The ascendancy of radical nationalist Felipe Quispe led to militant, often violent, mobilizations and direct action against the state leading up to 2000, when significant agrarian reforms were won. His anti-imperial/U.S. rhetoric invigorated popular nationalist sentiments within the movements and elicited support from both the masses and sympathetic elites.(Van Cott 767) These movements also fostered the developing political career of Evo Morales as the new symbolic leader of the indigenous movements. Support from international patrons like human rights organizations and domestic networks of solidarity launched Morales into the electoral arena, where he experienced major success in La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro, and Potosi. As leader of the Movimento al Socialism (MAS) party and the indigenous movement networks, Morales called for mobilization protests, strikes, and blockades in response to the income tax increase of 2003. Van Cott explains how “the mobilizations transformed Morales and Quispe into symbols of defiance against the Bolivian government and the
Popular frustration with the Banzer government (1997-2002) exploded over gaping inequality due to neoliberalization, elite domination of the political process, and near-total devastation of the coca crop. Though
Two major events of the twenty-first century are central to the development of social movement insurgency in
Social movements took to the streets of
For the past decade,
Transnational Movements Converge: The World Social Forum
The World Social Forum is a global public arena of diverse networks of transnational social movements: a “movement of movements” for the 21st century. The various branches of the global justice movement converge every year in an international venue of the Forum’s choosing. Initiated in
“The concentration of power in transnational and global institutions was one of the most significant social processes of the 20th century.”(Teivainen 2) With the exception of the
Events like the WSF are the fruition of this process. Through the communications established by the World Forum of Alternatives, the mobilizing efforts of Le Monde Diplomatique and the international ATTAC network, major “anti-Davos” events were organized at the WEF in 2000. These preliminary organizing efforts helped lay the groundwork for the creation of a global civil society project in the form of the WSF.
Despite some support from established centers of political power, the WSF is an explicitly “non-party context”; a non-institutional arena of social movement interaction, as outlined in the WSF Charter of Principles. The first WSF was held in January 2001 and gathered 5,000 official participants from 117 countries, including thousands of local Brazilian activists; 15,000 delegates and tens of thousands of total participants in 2002; and a staggering 20,000 delegates and over 100,000 total participants by 2003. Teivainen attributes this massive growth to the holding of regional and thematic forums all over the world under the WSF banner, including African, Asian, European, and U.S. Social Forum events. The core decision-making bodies of the WSF include the Organizing Committee and International Council. Initially made up of Brazilian civil society organizations, the Organizing Committee has transformed into a Secretariat of rotating international organizers as the WSF expanded beyond
The WSF was not originally intended to be a deliberative body, so no formal procedures for collective will formation had been established.(Teivainen 10) Implicit in the lack of clear decision-making procedures is the notion of the WSF as an arena, a global space for facilitating grassroots social movement interaction at the global level. The WSF was not initially conceived of as a political actor, making formal statements and taking stands on specific issues. Many participants claim “political action is the responsibility of each individual and the coalitions they form, not at attribute of the forum” itself.(Teivainen 9) Others claim that it is absurd for a forum like the WSF to not issue public, firm political positions on issues of global concern. Especially in response to media coverage and requests for “final declarations”, much debate has revolved around this crucial question, with significant consequences for the internal dynamics of the WSF. Is the WSF an arena, actor, or both? Teivainen notes increasing pressures to abandon the reluctance to issue final statements and create political mechanisms within the architecture of the forum for democratic will formation. Other criticisms include the massive, often debilitating size of the forum. Coordinating the activities of tens of thousands of activists without clear decision-making structures is an obvious deficiency for a project hoping to present to the world a compelling alternative to prevailing social and political arrangements. Roberto Savio notes how 1,714 different panels and seminars in 2003 led to an “atomization of dialogue” within the forum, undermining the inter-movement coordination the Forum is designed to facilitate. Michael Albert recommends transforming the WSF into an event of 5-10,000 delegates sent from the various regional forums of the world. (Teivainen 8) These are crucial criticisms to be addressed if the WSF is to remain an effective, democratic alternative to elite global institutions.
What are the symbolic dimensions of the World Social Forum in terms of identity and value formation, cognitive development, and radicalization and politicization of participants? Veronica Perrera discusses the WSF in terms of a complex political process involving a myriad of social movements organized in regional and global networks and materializing in meetings, debates, panels, and electronic communication within and between social movements.(74) She sees the WSF as creating a new transnational political identity through an articulatory practice built around a crisis in the global system. The political process is of intrinsic value, and impacts upon the cognitive and moral development of the individual. This articulatory practice develops “a relation among elements such that their identity is modified as a result of the articulatory practice.”(Perrera 80) In the actual process of political engagement, new needs and cognitions develop within the individual, generating the capacities that are required for constructing a radical, grassroots democratic culture. Within individuals, values of solidarity, diversity, and self-management are cultivated through the WSF process. New social skills, faculties, and increasing confidence facilitate debate and participatory decision-making and prepare participants for future movement participation. Within the space of the WSF, through free and democratic popular participation in collective affairs, new human beings emerge. A common cause, language, and identity integrate the WSF into a singular, unified project.
The WSF represents an unprecedented annual mobilization of global social movement networks. The WSF process facilitates the transcendence of bounded national, cultural, ethnic, or religious identities by cultivating a transnational civic identity. Through this, the fragmentation of identity politics or single-issue movements is overcome. Various local and international dynamics contributed to the WSF process. Preexisting associations and organizational strength in
The Bolivarian Revolution, Bolivian democratization, and the WSF process actively create grassroots arenas of political space. Rather than passively waiting for some systemic cleavage to emerge as a result of external factors (though they sometimes do), movements circumvent the formal institutional arena entirely through the permanent occupation of public space and the establishment of new arenas for political deliberation. In the unique case of