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Reformist Reforms, Non-Reformist Reforms and Global Justice: Activist, NGO and Intellectual Challenges in the WSF

by Patrick Bond (Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)

In South Africa, the merits of the World Social Forum (WSF) have been the subject of fierce debate. The difficulty experienced in establishing a national affiliated social forum is just one reflection of ongoing strategic conflict. The "Social Movements Indaba" network, established in 2002, is the closest to a gathering of independent left organizations approximating the WSF, and meets annually. Unfortunately, several logical constituencies – organized labor, churches and health activists (in the Treatment Action Campaign) – have not been attracted to joining the Indaba, because its leading groups explicitly reject work within the ruling African National Congress and its Alliance with the Congress of SA Trade Unions and the SA Communist Party. Such division may be healed in 2008, depending upon the outcome of the political struggle over ANC succession. Further ANC hostility to labor may generate the long-awaited Alliance breakup.

Meanwhile a few South African scholars are actively involved in WSF monitoring (most notably University of the Witwatersrand sociologist Jackie Cock.) There are also several popular education institutes for progressive internationalist politics that contribute to the WSF, including Khanya College in Johannesburg, the Alternative Information and Development Centre and the International Labor Research and Information Group in Cape Town and in Durban, the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. To elaborate on the latter (which I direct), CCS was established in mid-2001 with a primarily national focus. But from the outset, that mandate changed. Global networks are now crucial to CCS work, mainly because progressive actors in South African civil society themselves began not just thinking globally and acting locally, but also acting globally.

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