WSF?

(World Social Forum)

Published on Zmag, Michael Albert interviewed by Katja Kipping, August 14, 2009.

Kipping: You have participated in several World Social Forums (WSF). What hopes and expectations did you have? Have they been fulfilled?

  • Albert: I hoped the WSF would facilitate activists from around the world making new contacts and also inspire new people to become involved, including sharing information to learn lessons from others. All that has been accomplished.
  • I also hoped the WSF would shift the focus of activist attention away from merely identifying what is wrong in societies toward emphasizing what we want and how we achieve it. Here, success has been limited. Despite bringing together hundreds of thousands of people and using very large investments of energy, time, finances, etc. there don’t seem to be many new campaigns, shared projects, and internationally or even regionally shared vision and strategy, much less organization …

… You advocate participatory economy. Could you explain this conception? Is it part of the re-imaging society process?

  • Participatory Economics, or parecon, is the economic model I advocate to replace not only capitalism but also what was called 20th century socialism. I believe it is an economic system that embodies the aspirations of those who seek classlessness, those who want 21st century socialism, those who want self-management, etc.
  • Yes, Parecon is one of the visions put forward and advocated by many people in the Reimagining Society project. Indeed, I hope it will turn out to appeal to nearly all participants, but we will see.
  • Parecon has just a few key institutional features including workers and consumers self managed councils, equitable remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valuable work, what we call balanced job complexes which is a way of organizing work that avoids class divisions based on position in the division of labor, and participatory planning for allocation instead of either markets or central planning.
  • Of course each aspect needs further explanation for the description to be compelling, but the main idea is that parecon is a minimal set of economic institutions necessary to convey to producers and consumers a setting of self management, solidarity, diversity, and equity, without class division, in which they can decide their own lives and actions …

… What exactly do you wish and hope to be realized during the next WSF?

  • I would like to see the WSF become a vehicle for attaining shared vision and strategy. Maybe it would evenwelcome us to do a Reimagining Society component of the event  – not just another set of some panels  -  but a component aimed to shift the balance of discussion and exchange from critique to vision and strategy. But if there is some better way to achieve that end, wonderful – whatever works! (full Interview text).

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