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From "Lucien van der Walt" <029WALT@cosmos.wits.ac.za>
Date Wed, 28 Aug 2002 12:59:04 -0400 (EDT)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

>From ZABALAZA #3, online at http://www.zabalaza.net/zabmag.htm#zab3

Let us be clear on one thing. The UN's World Summit on Social Development
(WSSD) - which will take place in Sandton from 26 August to 4 September
2002 - will achieve nothing for the working class. It will provide an
opportunity for a lot of speeches by business. It will provide an
opportunity for the ANC government to smile at the cameras and pose as
friends of the poor. It will be a great opportunity
for NGOs to raise funds.

But it will achieve nothing for the working class. Why? - it is not meant to
do so.

RIO 1992
The WSSD is a follow-up to the ill-fated "Earth Summit" that was held in
Rio, Brazil, in 1992. This brought together a 100 "world leaders" who shed
many tears about the environmental problems facing the world.

A pious "Rio Declaration" was adopt-ed, which set targets for the reduction
of pollution and the phasing out of harmful technologies... and was promptly

Industrialised western countries circumvented the declaration under pressure
from the huge multinational corporations that dominate the world economy. By
1992, these companies controlled 70% of world trade, 50% of foreign
investment and 30% of global gross domestic product. Being the main
polluters, they were also powerful enough to scupper the vaguely worded Rio

At the time, Germany's powerful chemical industry fought a rearguard action
against proposed environmental regula-tions;Dutch industrialists threatened
to leave Holland if a proposed carbon emissions law was adopted; and
Californian furniture industries simply moved their highly pollutive
factories straight to Mexico.

At the same time, George Bush senior rejected any inclusion in the Rio
Declaration of measures that would compel US companies to restructure.

At the same time, the rulers of the largely non-industrial "third world"
sought to recast the Rio agenda in their own image.

On the one hand, they solemnly declared that they were not really
responsible for industrial pollution. At the same time, they encouraged
massive clearances of the Amazon and Congo rain-forests, privatised nature
reserves, and enticed western corporate investment by promising NOT to
implement pollution laws.

On the other hand, they helped shift the agenda from environmental
protection to the vague notion of "sustainable devel-opment," a catch-all,
empty phrase which most third world elites interpret as meaning
privatisation and desperate efforts to woo multinationals to our shore with
cheap labour and deregulation.

There will be conflict within the official WSSD. We need to be clear about
that. There will be conflicts between the representatives of different
western power blocs, most notably between those countries associated with
the European Union (EU) and the USA.

There will also certainly be conflict between the western powers and third
world elites. We can also be sure the ANC government will use the event to
posture to the world-at-large as a decent group of human beings who really
care about the poor (despite mass evictions, strike breaking, and so on of

The West will selectively argue for better "human rights" - and more
corporate investment in the third world, while third world elites will
defend their brutal regimes and demand more free trade in agricultural goods
with the West.

The most we can expect from the thugs of the African Union is that they will
wave their NEPAD plan (which advocates mass privatisation of social and
economic services and opening the continent to exploitation by
multinationals) and at the same time dismiss criticism of the dictatorships
that flourish continent-wide, whether in Libya, Zimbabwe or the DRC.

The WSSD will be a site for in-house squabbles between the world's elite,
debates that will take place in lavish centres, 5 star hotels, over R1000 a
plate meals, within an area of South Africa that will be locked down to
exclude protestors, crawling with police, helicopters, Casspirs etc.

Secure from the poor, the rich will squabble about who gets richer, and
how... and nothing more.

What about the parallel NGO summit being organised at NASREC by the Civil
Society Secretariat?

As we argued in the last issue, this NGO summit, the "Global Social Forum,"
is sponsored by the UN to give the main WSSD summit in Sandton an aura of
legitimacy. It creates an illusion of participation, when in fact it is
perfectly clear from the experience of all previous NGO summits that they
are ignored by the real players in the official UN meetings.

Underlining the general contempt the official summit has for the NGO summit
is the lack of adequate funding it has attracted, with an expected shortfall
of R100 million anticipated months back. Meanwhile, the NGO delegates have
found themselves being booked into overcrowded run-down hotels in the inner
city... miles away, in every sense, from the real action in Sandton.

Early signs from COSATU and SANGOCO - the main players- are also not
encouraging: there is a very real danger of the NGO summit being used to win
space for the capitalist ANC in the very heart of the left. That will not

Nonetheless, the WSSD provides an excellent political opportunity for South
Africa's nascent anti-capitalist movement.

The interest generated by the WSSD, the concentration of rich elites in
Sandton, the issues the WSSD raises, the global and local media attention it
will generate, all mean that the WSSD will be an excellent place to focus
the emerging movement.

We can be sure that many, many protestors will be present. This strength can
be used to put the real issues that are sure to be sidelined in the WSSD -
poverty, capitalism, ecological disaster- in the spot-light.

It can also be used to link up movements and individuals. We can share
experiences, plan actions, learn from one another, build alliances.

And while we have no illusions that protest at the WSSD will fundamentally
change society, it will help build confidence and momentum in the local and
international anti-capitalist movement.

And it is through this momentum that we can start to really change the

So, we can use the WSSD against the WSSD, against the UN, against the
elites... despite the best efforts of these bourgeois groups to prevent us
from struggling, advancing, and winning.

Found out more about Southern African Anarchism at:

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