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Left, far Left and extreme Left battle for space in Mumbai

The writing is on the wall—on the boundary walls of the sprawling ground that will host the World Social Forum kicking off on Friday. A...

Written by Kavitha Iyer | Mumbai |
January 13, 2004

The writing is on the wall—on the boundary walls of the sprawling ground that will host the World Social Forum kicking off on Friday.

And the writing is a smack, in-your-face challenge to the World Social Forum (WSF), the world’s ‘‘largest’’ anti-capitalism, anti-globalisation meeting which will bring together nearly a lakh participants from a hundred countries for about 1,200 events centred around the slogan ‘Another World is Possible.’

The maroon wall-painting on NESCO grounds, Goregaon, is a wily take on it: Smash Imperialism, Build A People’s World. The graffiti leads to a two-room rented flat where a motley group chalks out plans for the ‘‘real’’ struggle against imperialist globalisation and war, called the Mumbai Rsistance 2004, or MR.

‘‘No, we’re not splitting the anti-globalisation movement,’’ stresses G N Saibaba, general secretary of the all-India Committee of the All India People’s Resistance Forum (AIPRF). Surrounded by a couple of computers and piles of bedding, he says the WSF never claimed to be a force-unifier. ‘‘Everybody who’s joined us from their fold says there’s no possibility of arriving at a joint resolution at the WSF, since it’s disallowed. So, where’s the question of splitting the struggle?’’

But the faultlines between WSF and MR are stark. For the 300 organisations supporting MR, a ‘‘talkshop’’ such as the WSF is not only inherently flawed in structure and methodology, it even ‘‘defuses’’ the anti-imperialist battle. The conspiracy theory? The WSF accepts money from ‘‘imperialist funded’’ organisations like the Ford Foundation and Oxfam—something the WSF denies—and softens a raging anti-imperialist wave into fruitless intellectual sparring.

High on the list of MR’s problems with WSF is its refusal to decide on firm policies. ‘‘They’re not inclined to arrive at some common understanding of action. And the world’s Muslims—after all the havoc wreaked on their lives—are not interested in any non-serious programme,’’ says Feroze Mithaborwala of Muslim Youth of India.

True enough, a bevy of Muslim organisations have joined the MR, otherwise mostly comprising groups well left of centre and awaiting the socialist coming. Ask Saibaba about the contentious issue of supporting even armed struggle against imperialism and the answer is quick. ‘‘We don’t advocate taking of lives. But when 10 million people have been killed by sanctions and bombings, look at the number of lives lost through armed struggle to such imperialism. It’s a fraction. Conflict situations sometimes leave resistors with no choice,’’ he says. ‘‘Look at Iraq.’’

Professor Kamal Mitra Chenoy, co-facilitator of the WSF’s programme committee, disagrees. ‘‘Violence is ultimately self-defeating, it’s undemocratic, and it harms the innocent, especially women and children,’’ he says. ‘‘And it gives those in power the chance to label those who resist them as terrorists.’’

About 20 km away, in Central Mumbai, scores of workers of pharma major Nicholas Piramal are protesting the ‘‘illegal closure’’ of the Mumbai factory outside the company’s head office. As members of the Nicholas Employees Union talk, the word globalisation suddenly morphs into a monster-size collection of sorry tales. A union office-bearer says the workers, until a recent high court order, were unpaid for a year and half. ‘‘They don’t want a debate about globalisation, they want action. We are with the Mumbai Resistance,’’ he says, not wanting to be named.

At the WSF office in Prabhadevi, Chenoy seems bitter at MR’s attacks. ‘‘We share the same goal—opposing imperialist globalisation—so how about some fraternal solidarity?’’ he asks.

The picture of protest is not all about WSF and MR. The CPI-ML and the CPI-ML Red Flag are bringing together about 20 Marxist-Leninist parties ‘‘300 delegates’’ to a hall in Andheri Sports Complex on January 14 and 15 to discuss Communists’ role in the upsurge against globalisation, with socialism as the alternative. Some delegates from Europe, South Africa, Middle East, Afghanistan and Iraq are expected too.

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