The World Forum for Alternatives was reorganised and founded at a conference in Cairo in April 1997. François Houtart, director of the Tricontinental Centre, became the secretary general and the linchpin; Samir Amin cumulated the functions of director of the Third World Forum and president of the FMA. In their report published in the FMA Newsletter No 1, they wrote:
‘The World Forum for Alternatives entered the international scene by organizing in Davos itself, in January 1999, an “anti-Davos”. Not certainly in the sacred precinct which was obviously forbidden to us, but fifty metres away, on the other side of the snowy street of this beautiful winter resort. We were a small group, associating some committed intellectuals and authentic representatives of the great popular movements of the five continents, chosen for their strong representativeness: the peasant organizations of Burkina Faso, Brazil and India, the workers’ unions of South Africa, from Korea and Brazil, the Zapatistas from Chiapas, the activists of the “world march of women”, the “Sans” from France and the ATTAC group. This event had two complementary objectives.
The first was to lift the veil on the main function of this Forum which is to serve as a platform for the powerful States and their transnational oligopolies of the USA, EU and Japan triad in the formulation of new growth policies based on global surplus founded on a part on the continued plundering of natural resources, free overexploitation of peoples and free access to the financial markets of the countries of the South and on the other hand on dismantling of the systems of social protection put in place in the countries of the centre in the period the East-West confrontation and the ramp-up of the Bandung project. The second was to revive the neoliberal protest that fell into lethargy after the success of Seattle.’
This is how Samir and François invest in the formation of the world social forum (WSF) by thinking that it would be for alter-globalization organizations to contribute to the advent of a world system simultaneously anti-imperialist and without exploiting classes of the people, and destructive of planet earth. But the balance of power within the world social forum decided otherwise. This is why Samir launched the project of a fifth international in which socialist components were more effective.
On Theory and History. Samir Amin gave his first Capital Lecture by K Marx before entering university. During his graduate studies in economics, political science and statistics followed by his research work in doctorate in economics (which he supported in 1957), he definitively acquired the conviction that historical materialism is the best if not the only good scientific approach in social sciences. A condition for admitting that certain non-Marxist specialists share the decisive contributions to the understanding of capitalism and that the Marxist and socialist conviction does not provide assurances against errors and mistakes in science as in politics. For these reasons Samir called himself a Marxist socialist without borders. He applied this method by writing Theory is History.
Manifest of the World Forum for Alternatives
It is time to reclaim the march of history
Humanity’s future is at stake. Scientific progress and technical advances, the
supreme achievements of knowledge, fortify the privilege and comfort of a minority. Instead of contributing to the well-being of all, these feats are used to
crush, marginalize and exclude countless human beings. Access to natural
resources, especially in the South, is monopolized by the few and is subject to
political blackmail and threats of war. It is time to reclaim the march of history.
It is time to make the economy serve the peoples of the world
The economy provides goods and services mainly to a minority. In its
contemporary form, it forces the majority of the human race into strategies for
abject survival, denying tens of millions of people even the right to live. Its logic, the produce of neo-liberal capitalism, entrenches and accentuates grotesque inequalities. Propelled by faith in the markets self-regulating virtue, it reinforces the economic power of the rich and exponentially increases the number of the poor. It is time to make the economy serve the peoples of the world.
It is time to break down the wall between North and South
Monopolies of knowledge, scientific research, advanced production, credit and
information, all guaranteed by international institutions, create a relentless
polarization both at the global level and within each country. Trapped in
patterns of development that are culturally destructive, physically unsustainable
and economically submissive, many people throughout the world can neither
define for themselves the stages of their evolution, establish the basis of their own growth, or provide education for their younger generations. It is time to break down the wall between North and South.
It is time to confront the crisis of our civilization
The confines of individualism, the closed world of consumption, the supremacy of Productivism – and, for many, an obsessive struggle for sheer daily survival
obscure humanity’s larger objectives: the right to live liberated from oppression
and exploitation, the right to equal opportunities, social justice, peace, spiritual
fulfillment and solidarity. It is time to confront the crisis of our civilisation.
It is time to refuse the dictatorship of money
The concentration of economic power in the hands of transnational corporations
weakens, even dismantles, the sovereignty of States. It threatens democracy—
within single countries and on global scale. The dominance of financial capital
does more than imperil the worlds monetary equilibrium. It transforms states into mafias. It proliferates the hidden sources of capitalist accumulation, drug
trafficking, the rams trade, child slavery. It is time to refuse the dictatorship of
It is time to replace cynicism with hope
Stock prices soar when workers are laid off. A competitive edge is gained when
mass consumerdom is replaced with elite niche markets. Macro-economics
indicators react positively as the ranks of the poor multiply. International
economic institutions coax and compel governments to pursue structural
adjustment, widening the chasm between classes and provoking mounting social
conflict. International humanitarian aid trickles to those reduced to despair. It is
time to replace cynicism with hope.
It is time to rebuild and democratize the state
The programme of dismantling the state, reducing its functions, pilfering its
resources and launching sweeping privatizations leads to a demoralized public
sector, weakened systems of education and health and the eventual usurping of the state by private economic interests. Neoliberal globalization divorces the state from the population and encourages corruption and organized venality on an unprecedented scale: The state becomes a repressive instrument policing the
privilege of the few. It is time to rebuild and democratize the state.
It is time to recreate the citizenry
Millions of people are deprived of voting rights because they are immigrants.
Millions more fail to vote because they are angry or discouraged, because parties are in crisis or because they feel impotent and excluded from political life. Elections are often distorted by influence-mongering and deceit. But democracy is about more than elections. Democracy means participation at every level of economic, political and cultural life. It is time to recreate the citizenry.
It is time to salvage collective values
Modernity, conveyed by capitalism and ideologized by neo-liberalism, has
destroyed or profoundly corrupted existing cultures. It has imploded solidarities
and dismantled convictions, extolling instead the high-performance individual
evaluated on the basis of economic success. Rather than bringing emancipation to the peoples of the world, modernity is generating a crisis in education, fuelling social violence and triggering an explosion of insular movements that seek salvation and protection in nationalist, ethnic or religious identity politics. It is time to salvage collective values.
It is time to globalize social struggles
In all this, it is not the internationalization of the economy per se that is to blame. It could represent a dramatic step forward for material, social and cultural exchanges between human beings. But in its neoliberal form it becomes a nightmare lived by the victims of unemployment, young people traumatized by the future, workers shut out of the productive system and nations subjected to structural adjustment, labour deregulation, the erosion of social security systems and the elimination of networks serving the poor. It purports to link and unite, yet separates and imprisons. It is time to globalize social struggles.
It is time to build on peoples’ resistance
Across the world, people are organizing resistance, engaging in social struggles
and creating alternatives. Women, men, children, unemployed people, excluded
and oppressed people, workers, landless peasants, communities suffering from
racism, impoverished city dwellers, indigenous peoples, students, intellectuals,
migrants, small business people, outcasts, declining middle classes—citizens—are asserting their dignity, demanding respect for their human rights and natural
heritages, and practising solidarity. Some have given their lives for theses causes. Others practice heroism in their day-to-day existences. Some are rebuilding knowledge on the basis of the concrete situations, some are trying out new economic forms, some are creating the basis of a new kind of politics, and some are inventing new cultures. It is time to build on peoples’ resistance.
Now is the time for joining forces
Convergence of struggles, of knowledge, of resistances, of innovations, of minds and hearts for a world of justice and equality, invention and material progress, optimism and spiritual development. We can build this world by seeking and discovering viable alternatives to neoliberalism and unilateral globalization, alternatives based on the interests of peoples and respect for national, cultural and religious differences. Now is the time for joining forces.
A time of creative universal thought has arrived
Honest, probing analysis of the current economic organization and its economic,
social, ecological, political and cultural consequences can only delegitimize this
phenomenon which is paraded to the world as the paragon of progress. The search for a balance between personal initiative and the pursuit of collective goals—based on a celebration of human diversity and creativity—must open the way to new models. Studies of expanding non-market sectors, productive techniques that respect the well-being of those who use them, and the organization and nature of work will help create more human forms of organization. A time of creative universal thoughts has arrived.
The time to rebuild and extend democracy is here
Democracy is no longer merely a goal for the organization of societies. It is also
the key for the functioning of communities, social movements, political parties,
businesses, institutions, nations and international bodies. It is progressively
experienced as an essential contribution to the respect of popular interests, and the preservation of national and international security. By prizing open spaces for all cultures – not patronizingly, but because they represent humanity’s endowment – we can reverse the retreat into enclaves of narrow self-interest and the seclusion of identity politics. The existence of democratic, competent and transparent states is considered the basis for restoring their power to regulate. Regional economics and political groupings based on international complementary are viable answers to the real needs of the population and a necessary alternative to neoliberal globalization. Strengthening and democratizing regional and international institutions is a realistic imperative. It is a condition for progress in international law and the indispensable regulation of economic, social and political relations at the global level, particularly in the fields of financial capital, taxation, migration, information and disarmament. The time to rebuild and extend democracy is here.
Adopted in Cairo in 1997
The members of the Board of World Forum for Alternatives (WFA) have been since September 2010:
Chair: Samir Amin
Secretariat: Executive Secretaries: Remy Herrera (France)
and Krishna Murthy Padmanabhan (India)
Webmaster: Carlos Tablada (Cuba)
Francois Houtart (Belgium/Ecuador)
John Bellamy Foster (USA)
Bernard Founou-Tchuigoua (Cameroun)
Issa Shivji (Tanzania)
Lau Kin Chi (China)
Amiya Bagchi (India)
Mamdouh Habashi (Egypt)
Wim Dierckxsens (Costa Rica)
Paulo Nakatani (Brasil)