This is session is part of the Webinar "Dialogue on Alternatives in the Time of Global Crises".

Dialogue 1: Covid-19 – a potential opening for Just Transitions?

with Patrick Bond (South Africa) and Rehad Desai (South Africa) as Presenters and Ashish Kothari (India) as Moderator

First, in a series exploring the opportunities of promoting and creating systemic alternatives, this dialogue explores the responses emerging from labour movements, workers, social movements and popular organisations in South Africa. How can campaigns like One Million Climate Jobs and People’s Coalition provide pathways out of multiple crises, both in the present and the future?
  • Date: 17th April
  • Time: 13:30 (UTC/GMT)
  • Duration: 60 minutes

Download: [ Video ] (113Mb) | [ Audio only ] (42Mb)


Participants: Patrick Bond (PB); Rehad Desai (RD); Ashish Kothari (AK); Vasna Ramasar (VR)

AK: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, depending on where you are in different parts of the world. I’m Ashish Kothari and I’d like to welcome you to the first of a series of webinars which we’ve entitled dialogue on alternatives in the time of global crises. These webinars are brought to you by the Global TapestryThe weaving of networks of Alternatives of AlternativesAre activities and initiatives, concepts, worldviews, or action proposals by collectives, groups, organizations, communities, or social movements challenging and replacing the dominant system that perpetuates inequality, exploitation, and unsustainabiity. In the GTA we focus primarily on what we call "radical or transformative alternatives", which we define as initiatives that are attempting to break with the dominant system and take paths towards direct and radical forms of political and economic democracy, localised self-reliance, social justice and equity, cultural and knowledge diversity, and ecological resilience. Their locus is neither the State nor the capitalist economy. They are advancing in the process of dismantling most forms of hierarchies, assuming the principles of sufficiency, autonomy, non-violence, justice and equality, solidarity, and the caring of life and the Earth. They do this in an integral way, not limited to a single aspect of life. Although such initiatives may have some kind of link with capitalist markets and the State, they prioritize their autonomy to avoid significant dependency on them and tend to reduce, as much as possible, any relationship with them. at a time when we know that we are facing multiple global crises: ecological, socio-economic, political, cultural, and of course personal. Each one of us, whether individually or in our communities, is in one way or the other facing these crises. And especially those of us who are most vulnerable, who are in situations which are already marginalised in one way or the other, we face the consequences of these crises even more. But none of us are spared. Even those of us who might be– might think of ourselves as rich and mighty and powerful. There are of course, also, multiple responses to these crises, but, even as we do these multiple responses, we are in the midst of yet another crisis that has been brought about by Covid-19. And we need to also look at the fact this is not an isolated one. It’s actually linked to the other global crises that I just mentioned. In terms of the responses, there are two very important parts to the kinds of responses that people are giving around the world. First, resistance. Protest. Being able to or trying to stop the oppression, the domination, the repression, the authoritarianism, the ecological destruction that is caused by capitalism, statism, patriarchy, and many other structural forces in our society. Because these resistances are also able to provide to us the fact that there are other ways of knowing; other ways of being; other ways of working, dreaming. It’s not only the dominant system which is engulfing all of us that is the only system that we have to follow. There are lots and lots; there’s a whole pluriverse of alternatives. But along with the resistance, there are also thousands and thousands of examples of constructive alternatives that people are attempting to do to create on-the-ground to conceive of, to create or bring back old world-visions, to create new visions of the world which are in sync with, which are as part of the rest of nature and which are also in harmony with each other as human beings. What we want to do in this series of webinars is to bring to you a glimpse of some of these very incredible, exciting alternatives that are taking place around the world. And especially to see how they deal with not just the current Covid crisis, but also all the other global crises that we are facing. The global tapestry of alternatives, just to give a brief introduction, is an attempt to try and weave together in a horizontal, decentralized manner the various kinds of alternatives that have emerged around the world and are continuing to emerge. Whether they are those that are fighting patriarchy and creating a more just genderized world; or those that are fighting ecological destruction and saying we want alternatives to development which are about well-being; or those that are fighting for the commons or fighting for various kinds of transitions or transformations towards a more just, more equitable, more ecologically sustainable society. What the global tapestry hopes to do is to create a possibility of sharing, of collaboration, of giving greater visibility to these alternatives, of creating more of a critical mass, and also of stimulating collective visions of what the world could look like. You’ll find much more about the Global Tapestry of Alternatives on this website, which is where many of you have registered for this program.

AK: Today I would like to welcome, in this first webinar, two incredible activists from South Africa. Patrick Bond has for the last many decades been part of struggles: student struggles, climate justice struggles, workers’ struggles, both documenting them and participating in them, analysing them, putting them out to the world, supporting them in many different ways through activist research, through advocacy, through policy action and so on and so forth. Patrick will talk to us about the kind of initiatives that are taking place as a response to the Covid Crisis and other global crises. With him is Rehad Desai, another amazing activist in South Africa. He started off as union activist, as an activist trying to prevent HIV/AIDS, but then also moved into media, became a filmmaker, has made a whole number of films including many that have won awards, one of which for instance which won an Emmy award. Rehad has become a full time activist also and has currently helped to found the C19, the Covid-19 people’s coalition searching for both resistance and alternatives to the current crisis. So welcome to both Patrick and Rehad. What we have placed to them is a series of questions, essentially the broad overarching question that we’re gonna place to all the speakers in this series: is Covid-19 an opportunity? Of course it’s a huge humanitarian crisis, but is it also an opportunity to more– move towards just transitions, towards justice, ecological sustainability and so on? And in particular, in South Africa, what are the worker collectives coming up with in response? What sorts of democratic lessons, lessons for solidarity, lessons for alternatives, lessons for a wiser world can we learn from these workers’ movements in different parts of South Africa? And how do we get inspired by what is happening there by so-called ordinary people? So these are the questions that we put to Patrick and Rehad. And I will now hand over to my colleague Vasna just to explain a little bit about the logistics and ethics of the webinar series and then we will hear from Patrick and Rehad. Thank you very much.

PB: … Discuss where the Covid-19 People’s Coalition is going. And essentially this tradition of commoning, transitions from the African Nationalist victory of 1994 into the post-nationalist struggles. I mentioned one and I think I got to the point where I was describing the victory of the treatment action campaign against multinational capital that raised life expectancy from 52 years in 2005 to 65 because the public sector has rolled out the AIDS medicines, the treatment– antiretrovirals– for at least 5 million people. We have about 8 million out of a total of 16 million people living with aids, with HIV at least. So the main point about this is a tradition emerged of social movements, independent and radical. It was a protest but also offered mutual aid. Another version of that was a couple of years ago with Fees Must Fall, the student movement. And you want to get access to Rehad Desai’s amazing movie “Everything Must Fall” which documents this struggle for free education which was one for about 90 percent of the students currently in tertiary, in other words in universities or technical colleges. And so that was a terrific struggle, it was very painful as there were a couple of deaths in the process, but particularly the fight against the Jacob Suma government. And it was initially a very broad-based societal effort. And eventually the tactics required very very heavy levels of militancy by students and they raised the costs of business as usual. And the third example post-apartheid that I would bring up of this kind of commoning of making goods decommodified, destratified and deglobalized, would be water and electricity were at least for an essential amount the society is one through protest. And that’s in the form of free basic water, 25 liters per person per day. That’s a couple of flushes at the toilet, not enough of course but it’s a start in the decommodification struggle. And for electricity it’s 50 kwh per household per month. That is notionally what the entire society should be getting with a higher level of payment for those who use more. That’s the basic promise and although implementation is uneven we still have dramatic community protests. These are some of the examples. I’d also mention we have a working class in this country, third most militant in the world according to the world economic forum’s big survey. And we also have a capitalist class- is considered third most corrupt in the world. Ashish, you and your friends in India… most corrupt capitalist class. The most corrupt is considered to be the Chinese. This is by the way according to the PWC, it’s a very corrupt company, a big consultancy, and therefore I trust them. It takes one to know one. As a result, the conditions, I think, in both object and subject terms are preparing themselves for the contestation. And whether we consider this transition that is going to be required as one in which we move to a socialist revolutionary projects, a second stage of the revolution, or it would be more of a set of expanded reforms which is what many of the C19 People’s Coalition has been demanding, remains to be seen. I think the militancy is there. The grassroots protests are really getting underway. The need to maintain social distancing while protesting is something that we should talk about, the tactics, the ability to put pressure on the government, it re-legitimize itself. But I think there is a trajectory that says simply this: capitalism, especially South Africa’s corrupt and extremely unequal capitalism, is simply not capable of solving the problems that we’re looking at. Because Rehad and myself we’ve looked at climate politics in this country in the same sort of way. I think that’s one of the link issues where the struggle for a different economy I suspect is going to have to be decarbonized, much more localized and one based on meeting essential needs. And therefore- Oh, somebody- Vicky has said physical distancing. Absolutely correct. We definitely want social solidarity, mutual aid, but physical distancing is the proper way to describe the tactics. So let see, is Rehad able to tell you about the C19 People’s Coalition. It’s a very impressive network. Rehad, are you there? But Vasna just asked me on chat to repeat the first statements and those are simply that if we are going to see any breakthrough in the contradictions that are of such extraordinary intensity, South Africa could give as some signals because we are in the most unequal city and the most unequal country in the world with extraordinary legacies of mass social protest against injustice. And so think that I defer to Rehad because he spends every minute of the day doing solidaristic mutual aid work within the C19 People’s Coalition. And I suspect you'll be online any second. Rehad, are we nearly there? Yes, I can now hear Rehad. Can everyone else see Rehad? Okay, I’m gonna turn it over to Rehad. If there's any problem with hearing Rehad, please type to me. Great. Rehad, they say we can see you but not hear you. Ok, unmuting… I can hear you because of the telephone but that's all. So, Rehad's asking can anyone hear him? No? Go ahead, Rehad.

RD: My mike is on?

PB: And again, apologies. I’ll mute myself.

RD: Can you hear me now? Ok. Let me continue. So… Sorry about this guys. Where are we at the moment? I mean, let’s just look at the trade unions. The trade unions, the formal trade union movement is essentially- excuse my language, but it’s phraseology, has got it’s head up the ass of the government because the formal economy, workers in the formal economy, are covered through a scheme where people are getting a percentage of their income, the unemployment insurance fund, or now called the temporary employment relief programme. And many people are still getting paid from the big corporations, full salaries, and particularly those who can work from home. So those are, you know, the regional 2-2,5 million workers.Yeah, around that number maybe a bit more. The massive number of workers in the informal sector, some 5,6 million, have been shut out, locked out of the economy. And most of those are dependent on daily wages. And the people have been bailed out of really the corporations with all these schemes. So the corporates are locked in and the informal sector are locked out. So this is the situation we’re faced with. Now, the question that presents itself to us is, you know, what is your opportunity in this moment for, you know, transitions? And it’s incredible the networks being built. Let me first tell you about the sort of neighbourhood structures that are emerging mainly which began in the suburbs amongst, you know, what we call a middle class. So, I’m trying to get into the… back into my computer. And they’ve been twinning with the townships and informal settlements, often those of closer- are closest to them. That took off in Cape Town and then it is now taken off in Johannesburg, and it’s in the process of taking off in Durban. Now, these are the big metropolitan cities and these are the cities that… these are the areas which are most acutely affected by- Eh.

AK: Rehad, we can hear you properly.

RD: Can you hear me?

AK: Yes yes perfectly. Go ahead.

RD: Ok, I’m just trying to get into the… to see my computer. Ok, let me join. Let me see if they have allowed me to join. So- But the- And what’s happened now is we’ve been able to, as the hunger has started to bite three weeks into the lockdown and now we’ve got the, as of a couple of days ago, the civic structures that have been weakened significantly over the last 3-4 years with the- for one reason or the other; they are re-emerging. So in my province, we’ve got 18 community structures that we’re working with- There’s a counter-power developing in the sense that they are now monitoring their own communities. They are saying, you know, we don’t want these, you know, rough-handed army. You know we’ve got the army in the townships, the police, who are often very brutal. They are also busy with evictions and rounding up the homeless and taking refugee communities into camps and so on. So, there’s a number of agendas amongst the neoliberals and the moralists and the right that are being fulfilled in the process of the lockdown. But the fightback is very considerable. Ok, so I'm just trying to-

AK: Rehad, can you just go on? We're hearing you properly.

RD: What we’re now faced with is a situation where I think the- you know- cause we’ve been able to raise money through crowdfunding, we’ve been able to work with the community organizers, community organisations, and in the process hook them up with small scale farmers directly so we’re getting produce coming in through small scale farming and we’re arguing that this is the way forward for the government. So we’re trying to, in a way, prefigure the new sort of food distribution systems that we need to see happening under the impact of climate emergency and the fact that we are a climate hot spot where, you know, drought has become the norm. Floods combined with drought are knocking out the sections of the peasantry completely, and you know they are not able to bounce back. So that’s very exciting. In a way we’re setting in place, I believe, the linkages, you know- distribution systems, the food producers, with the communities and in the process of beginning to develop embryonic forms of a new food production, localized food productions. And there are a number of, you know, middle class NGO’s that are coming in to the mix that, you know, believe too in, you know, local food economies and so on- the importance of building food sovereignty. And this is really the essence of what C19 is doing, the People’s Coalition. We’re trying to build economic sovereignty, energy sovereignty. All these things are critical at this moment at time and it’s providing a real alternative to the economic nationalism that is creeping in around the world. So- I think the networks that we will build up, and Covid-19 is not a flash in a pan, we’re gonna see waves of infections and numerous peaks and throw offs with this because we simply don’t have the infrastructure to be able to beat this in South Africa and I think most parts of the Global South, many of the middle-income economies. And I think that’s- That in itself is gonna force the sort of changes, you know, of robust national health service that needs to move from being cut back to be deeply expanded, you know- With no budget really to meet the health crisis it’s gotta do what it’s gotta do and I think this will see a tremendous expansion of health workers. It’s seen already a turning upside down of the notion of statues when it comes to jobs and professional status. We now know in many people’s eyes and I see if we wake, demonstrate, when people get out and clap and bank pots and pans and so on for the health workers, for the community health workers, for poorly paid nurses, for the doctors in the state sectors that, you know, aren’t particularly paid well and don’t have good working conditions. For all the essential workers at this time, the people are keeping our lights on and so on and this is shifting things in a major way. You know- The horrible rapacious nature of our society has- As the Covid pandemic reaches in- As it reaches in, it shines a light on all the crooks and crannies of a rotten system. And- it’s virtually impossible for people to turn their eyes away from it because it makes people go hungry, it makes people get retrenched, it means, you know, business going down, it means essentially the most vibrant part of our economy, the informal sector, you know, subsistence, as we know is a euphemism for subsistence by any means necessary. All the same it’s larger, it’s more vibrant than the formal economy. That is being smashed into smithereens of- the- for economic recovery to take place. The horizons begin to widen in a major way and no more so than with the big package, you know, the need to push demand-led growth. So-

AK: Sorry, I didn’t want to stop you, interrupt you. but if you can finish in a minute…

RD: For some reason I can’t hear you very well. I don’t think you are on the speaker. Yeah, so I think, you know, that’s the green new deal. So- I think we’re in a good position in a month or two to really begin pushing that once we’re over the first peak, once we’re over the shock, the trauma. I think it’s very difficult at this moment to introduce sort of climate justice politics because we’d just be seen to be, I think- opportunistic, using the moment opportunistically, when there’s very real needs on the ground and- the most acute need is food.

AK: Thanks Rehad and thanks Patrick. Can both of you hear me?

RD: Yeah, just about.

PB: Fine, no worries.

AK: Alright. So we have one or two questions in the chat and then I guess people can raise their hand. So- we’re a bit late but if it’s okay with everybody we can run about 15-20 minutes over the allowed time. So there’s a question from Rehena Halilal. Vasna, do you want to read it out or should I?

VR: So Rehena’s sort of question- there are stories of gang warfare in Cape Town ceasing and focus now on providing aid in communities. Can you share how this evolved and is it being used for community recovery? The role of gangs-

RD: Yeah. Do you want me to answer, Ashish? Or do you want to take a few questions?

AK: At the moment there is only one so go ahead, Rehad.

RD: Okay. Yeah, I mean, basically they’re using the gangs to get the food out, the food aid, through the government schemes. You know, the gangs have laid down their weapon and there’s a truce and they’re out there doing community work and, you know, they are community rooted and they do have a very clear understanding of the most vulnerable members inside their communities; who’s in need of support. Now, what we see is food riots, or what we call it, food rebellions. Or what could be called I think more accurately, self-provisioning. Because people are simply just going very hungry and that is very- most of that is happening in Cape Town and I think part of that is because the wage- the wage is I think amongst the lowest of all the cities, the income per capita.

VR: So, there’s another comment from Esteban: I work in the south of Colombia where many communities have been returning to their farms. Speaking of food security, the response to Covid-19 crisis is very similar to the way they responded during the worst period of the armed conflict violence in the country. This is indeed starting to re-strengthen old social movements. I don’t know if anyone wants to just make a comment on that or- There’s another question from Vicky about farmer’s markets in the urban areas. And then another question from Karsen. Besides small-scale farmers are other small-scale food producers linked up to the initiatives? Are there small-scale fishers involved? I don’t know if you wanna take this on food security?

RD: Yeah. So- I mean, I’ve written about the- what we saw before the lockdown. It was announced a few days before it happened so people had time to get out. And on the last day or two we saw droves of people leaving, not wanting to be locked into their shack or the, you know, the overcrowded accommodation township. And that- You know, that’s been quite concerning. That’s happened 2-3 weeks ago now, but we haven’t started seeing any real infections. So the government has been lauded in South Africa for acting early, you know, internationally, lots of well-known South Africans saying “oh I’m proud to be South African again, our government’s been doing all the right things.” As Patrick’s saying, it’s been re-legitimized. But the lockdown has meant- I know in the first few days we had as many deaths at the hand of the police and the army as we did from Covid itself. The question- and yes, absolutely, the old social movements are re-emerging. The old networks- they are being forced into- coming back together and bringing back the organizational skills and, you know, finding out the old activism using the trade union- You know the trade union base- The trade union, you know, their understanding of how democracy works and so on. That’s all coming leaching back into the civic movement and we’ve been trying for years and I think it’s all of a sudden in a space of a few weeks it’s happening very quickly. It feels like almost months that we’ve gone through, but it’s only been at the matter of a few weeks. We’re all seeing farmer’s markets in the area- For the first time small-scale farmers, small-scale food producers, do not have to pay for their stalls. That’s being organized by people on the ground. So, that’s a wonderful new development. Small-scale fisheries, no. That’s being part about demand, to stop the big trolling that happens on our coasts to release all the fish that’s kept in cold storage to feed our people. We have a problem that the department who are responsible for provisioning food from the government only have the capacity to deliver 300 000 food parcels when we have millions of people in need and most of that department serve- been given this period off. So- they’re coming under severe restrain because the distribution- even their own distribution networks and the counsellors have now- have been politicized so, you know, it goes to the counsellors’ political networks rather than those most vulnerable. The last point I do want to make is as of yesterday, I think the government are starting to see the power, the counter-power developing, and the potential problem making faced down the road, and now are forcing NGO- anybody who wants to distribute food to have their NGO or their company or whatever registered with the company registration officer and then from there get your permit or whatever so that you rocketizing the process in order to, I think- clamp down on the massive levels of self-organization that is happening.

PB: Could I come in? Because…

VR: Patrick before you get jump in, I don’t know if you wanna respond to this or to the chat question?

PB: I fully, fully agree with Rehad’s assessment and he’s much, much closer to the ground on especially these matters of generating food sovereignty, solidarity. Right as we speak, there’s a whole campaign for food sovereignty which is having its own webinar in South Africa…

AK: Can everybody mute their mike?

PB: Ok, let me then quickly, very quickly, sum up what’s a very vibrant debate regarding the Bretton Wood’s institutions. You know, Arturo Escobar, here on the line has written probably the most profound book about the framing capacity of these institutions. So, Encountering Development- if you can find that in your library or if you’re not at a library, a pirate website, would be a good background for this. What we’re dealing with is a double problem in terms of development, finance. Larry is right to say let’s question this. And the one problem I’ll just mention quickly in passing is that there is a move by some if working from home we would call a left-keynesian perspective to use IMF special drawing rights to reflate the world economy. Those of you interested in degrowth, you should be quite worried because this is a sort of global keynesian strategy that we saw once before when it was done by Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2009. Does everybody remember Strauss-Kahn? He was eventually fired and had to, you know, go down in ignominy for his- mildliest Viagra overdoses. He was a serial rapist, sexual harasser according to many. The thing is he at least tried in 2009 to reflate the world economy after the big crash and what happened at that point was very revealing and the people who were promoting SDR’s- I could name some very well-known, you know, examples of great people desperate to see more funding available for countries like South Africa, countries like India, all poor countries. And the ideas of this would be free money or the so-called helicopter. The helicopters, Milton Friedman put it, just dropping money. And when that happened in 2009, September to be precise, it was a South African finance minister, Trevor Manuel, who began the advocacy in April that year. It did have a small effect. It was about 187 million US dollars’ worth of money just flooding in. That’s nothing compared to the trillions in the so-called quantitative easing, the low-interest loans below zero for many countries after a while and the bailouts. But it was for many third-world countries, many poor countries, who was very important. And so, just to sum it up, what we should watch though is, as the IMF is being lobbied in the next day, two days, this weekend, in their virtual annual meeting, spring meetings. They will probably announce an SDR allocation so all of your countries will get a little bit more hard currency equivalent, SDR, but the big question is who’s controlling it and the North gets the vast bulk of that. What we saw them do is to reflate financial assets and their regrowth was carbon-intensive, consumer oriented and based on the old model. So, those of you interested in degrowth, let me segway and say, I think the dilemma for the degrowth moment, which I wrote about in a book, Political Economy of Degrowth, late last year, is that we are in a degrowth like Greece experienced when the degrowth movement was really rising up. But our movement, the degrowth movement, fails to incorporate the devalorization of capital as the central argument. So, I’d be happy to put a link up and send you the full argument why devalorization of capital and degrowth are distinctly, you know, connected but very different because one comes from capitalist crisis tendencies working themselves out on this, and the other comes from the self-activity, micro-strategies like the ones that Rehad was describing. And a very final point: What instead of international development finance expanding, whether SDR’s were just straight loans, and by the way, the debt relief that we’re hearing- If you don’t mind muting, please? Thank you, sister. And what- I was just saying, the World Bank loan that’s been discussed in South Africa, 60 million dollars, has many negative attributes particularly because these are hard currency loans that we already have in most of the countries of the people I see on this screen. Very high levels of debt that cannot be serviced with the collapse of exports, the collapse of commodity prices. So, really, it’s time to think about not expanding our foreign debt but the reverse, it’s time to default. And I would defer to CADTM, the Committee for the Abolitionist Third World Debt. Particularly the work of Eric Toussaint. And if you can find that website and start seeing even today exceptionally strong arguments that he’s making on the question of how to get away with these defaults. In South Africa, we’d love to see defaults. But, Rehad, you would strongly agree that the single biggest loan the world bank ever made was for the largest coal fired power plant under construction in the world anywhere. It’s called Medupi, it’s part of Eskom, a parastatal supplier. And it was really built for big capital, smelters, mines, big other companies. So, these are all down now. The mines are just beginning to start up. And so the demand is down. But the main point is we shouldn’t be paying for that loan. It’s a notoriously corrupt loan, even the current crisis and the World Bank has admitted- He has testified in congress. His name is David Malpass. That South Africa is the primary example of corruption in world bank lending. So we’d love to see movements emerge to say: default on a loan. Don’t take a new loan. And I think that applies more generally. I’d love to hear how that would sound for example, Miriam Lang in Ecuador, where you had a congress decision a couple of weeks ago to nearly default on a loan, the external loans, so maybe we can ask you to make a point. It wasn’t successful but this is the kind of spirit I’d love to see emerging from a more nuanced political economy rather than celebrating our elite leaders who want to use this opportunity to tie us down even deeper into a world financial system that’s melting. It’s time for what the late great African political economist, Samir Amin described with delinking from the worst circuits of world capitalism. Finance probably being bribed up there with fossil fuels. But Rehad, more on that?

AK: There are a number of other questions-

VR: Yeah, so maybe if I can take three questions in a row and then the both of you can comment on them. The first one is a bit more of a practical question, from Jean: watching the dense activity on the C19 People’s Coalition Whats App group, how do you about coordinating and sifting all of that? Then a question from Arturo Escobar: In Latin America, the pandemic is being seen by many as making more evident the civilisational crisis, crisis of western hetro-patriarchal-capitalism-modern-racism system. Is there any discussion in South Africa in these terms? Jenny’s question about degrowth has been answered already, so then I’ll move on to one more question from Kent: Can you suggest any further resources or concepts to look into what a post-crisis economy might look like, which also aligns with the shift to no-carbon future? Maybe if we can take those three and then the next round of questions.

RD: Can I come in quickly? I think the third question is-

PB: Just to say, Rehad, don’t do this quickly. Take all the time, I give you all my time. These are all really-

RD: The last question is certainly your question. But I think it’s interesting, you know- There’s an argument that we’re moving into some sort of state capitalism. I’d be interested to see what you have to say on that. What is clear? Is Trump taking a step back? With defunding who? I think from managing the world system and he has those sort of tendencies. I think the model we adopted in the coalition really- We stood in good stead, really, from Extinction Rebellion and the model of autonomy, democracy, working groups that have polycratic elements, sociocratic elements and are able to work fast, develop their mandate and act. And then work out where they are intersecting with other groups and where other groups then have issues with their mandate. And then- Mandates can sometimes intersect nicely, sometimes they can clash, and we can see duplication of work. So that’s getting all worked out in the wash. Mandates are getting refined and so on. But there’s a tremendous amount of activity. One part of the problem with these 80-90 working groups is the constant tension between national and provincial. And you know, car teams sort of led the way with I think now- delivered 50-60 thousand dollars worth of food to various communities. This is the concrete sort of forms of solidarity that are required. This is what gives the activists in the community the ability to build and deepen the networks of cooperation, collaboration. Not only within their communities but across their communities. The final point is yes I think, you know, the prospect of societal collapse has been so close to us here in southern Africa with the reality of 12 million people being on food aid, many of them suffering deep malnutrition, combined with the floods on the east coast. This is painting a very grim prospect for the continued notions of society or civilisation so to speak. And the climate crisis is on us and then we have this coming completely from the side and having to rethink our priorities as a society very quickly. So- I think the tension, difficulty is, and I am assuming everybody here, you know, understands the nature of this virus. It comes from tropical reforestation as did- As most of us are waking up to now over the last year or two- I think most HIV activists draw tremendous parallels with the HIV activism and the activism developing here. It’s that we did know- you know, that- how the transmissions took place from wildlife to humans. I grew up for many years thinking- When they talk about HIV and aids we see a picture of a monkey, and then in relation to sexually transmitted disease, people are fucking monkeys. You know, we never knew until a couple of years ago. A great study that came out to show how they were feeding forest workers while they were busy with deforestation, they developed a huge market in bushmeat. Now this is the same issue that is coming back to bite us again- and has the intensity of these viruses- have meant that as Rob Wallace and others have pointed to, brilliant Marxists biologists. I don’t know if people have seen these articles in the monthly review. Two pieces which look at the circuits of capital land use, industrial agriculture, deforestation and how we’ve seen a huge intensity of these viruses and the threat of these viruses, the frequency of these viruses are coming upon us. So- We can’t get that right now. We are faced, I think- People are understanding this is not the first of the pathogens to come that will be coming down the road.

PB: If I simply pick up from that. The awareness of the universality of our dilemma here plus the universality of some of the solutions. Even that we’re looking for localized and- you know, mutual aid systems that have strong community structures. One of the most critical things that I think we’ll all be talking about- I may be wrong because I have no epidemiological grounding to say this, but- The treatment regimes that will emerge- One that CNN just covered a very encouraging report on- a couple of hours ago. It’s called Remdesivir. And that’s the, as Rehad said, the legacy of fighting for universal access. So, it’s gonna be this interesting dilemma of what we want as global. In my mind, some of you may disagree, but there’s at least one great accomplishment of the United Nations. Maybe we could go back to 1987 for the Montreal protocol that banned chlorofluorocarbons and therefore addressed the Ozone hole as a seminal moment in global crisis- let’s say resolution rather than simply displacement. But the more recent was when the aids activist said: we’re going to need financing to ensure there’s a sufficient- not only the medicines becoming available, but resources for stressed public health systems. So just as Rehad said, it’s the same conditions. What was set up at that time? Maybe some of you have ideas on this, but United Nations’ global fund defied TB, aids and malaria. And the way the activists especially in Health Gap and Act Up and some of the other sites of struggle in the North, Médecins sans frontières, Oxfam was very progressive here. They worked with treatment action campaign and movements of the South to say these have to be generic, locally made and decommodified medicines. So, will we see Remdesivir, the potential anti-retroviral medicine, as a vital part of our treatment? It would be because activists like many of you on this call have decided this is the correct combination of globalize- here on the call and he knows the UN circuits I think better than anyone. I hope he can say something about whether we can expand the UN global fund to fight TB, aids and malaria to also include Covid-19. The big enemy of course is Donald Trump or any corporate. As you probably know, Donald Trump tried to take over a German company that was looking at a vaccine and a treatment. So, then it comes to the bigger question: the civilisational problems. And here, if we can think about the collection of, let’s say, small-scale struggles. Again, I turn to Ashish and others- Arturo and Ashish and a few others co-edited a book called Pluriverse which sets out some of these models. And in the transition to capitalism from feudalism, it was this sort of aggregation of the small-scale that changed the mode of production. As a big class, the feudal order was swept out. And it does seem to me that the one strategy that the South African progressive movement has generated in all of these different diverse settings that I refer to in passing, is commoning, which is the series of decommodification, destratification, deglobalization of capital. All achieved with the globalization of people and solidarity. To me that’s the set of formula that I hope we all start to be exploring as we think about as Kent asks, how we move to a post-fossil economy as well. This country could again be a great example if we didn’t have, as Rehad said, some of the unions sticking desperately to coal for energy, for coal mining, for the smelting industry, for autos, the auto exports especially. These are areas where we’re hoping a million climate jobs campaign, which began about 5 or 6 years ago, could then begin to step in and as Rehad says, a green new deal, or a just transition done genuinely would be the framing. But I think he’s right that we’re in a crisis emergency response mode, and those strategic discussion by our movements’ leaders, not armchair academics like myself by any means, just you know the serious activists who can still do their social solidaristic work. They’ll be coming to that and I’ll try to keep you posted in various quick memos that I can type up. Anything else, Vasna?

VR: That’s it for the questions we had from the chat now and we are quarter to five. I feel like we could keep going but- Ashish, do you…?

AK: I think we should round up. This has been amazing. Sorry to everybody for the technical glitches, hopefully the next time around that will not be the case. But we will try and put together the recording- and send it out to everybody. I was gonna try to have a few concluding remarks but I don’t think that is necessary because between Patrick and Rehad everything has been so clear that there’s no need for any kind of summary or anything like that. What we will also do is to send to everybody who registered on this call the announcement for the next call. There will also be an on the list on which we announced this one. It will be on the 1st of May. And we hope to get Bangladeshi couple Farhad Mazhar and Farida Akhter who've been working on fantastic agricultural renewal project with small-scale farmers over many hundreds of villages for the last many years, to speak about how those farmers are actually dealing with the current crisis and what are the long-term lessons emerging from that kind of a very very different, very alternative model of agriculture. Some of the things that Rehad and Patrick also talked about. So that's gonna be from Bangladesh on the 1st of May and we'll send out the announcement.

PB: And Ashish, if I could just point out that Jay is online and he is very very closely following global movement work. And as everybody knows, the last 3-4 months of 2019 were absolutely extraordinary with about a quarter of the world's countries in massive social upheavals with civil society movements, and uncivil society, you know, major challenges to authoritarianism. So I hope at some point we get Jay to be able to update us on the ebb and flow but perhaps the potentials for revivals of some of those movements that he's watching so carefully around the world.

AK: Yeah, we hope to get Jay- Many others who are currently… Arturo- who we can see on the screen right now to be with us on future webinars. Ok, so- Unless somebody has something really burning to say we should conclude. Thanks a lot, Patrick. Thanks, Rehad.

PB: Thank you for the patience. Extraordinary that you stuck with us in spite of our inconvenience here, or at least mine.

AK: Thanks a lot for these perspectives and we hope to be with you all back in a couple of weeks. Vasna, thank you for coordinating the questions.

PB: Ok. We have one final award from South Africa. I'll let Rehad answer, but if I say the word power in Zulu: Amandla!

RD: Awethu!

In detail


Patrick Bond

Patrick is Professor at the University of the Western Cape School of Government in Cape Town, having also taught at the two main universities in Johannesburg and Durban from 1997-2019. He began his career at the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank from 1983-85 while studying at the Wharton School of Finance, and then pursued doctoral studies in economic geography at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore under David Harvey’s supervision. There and in Philadelphia and Washington DC, he gained activist experience in anti-apartheid, student, urban community, labour and international solidarity movements. After moving permanently to Southern Africa in 1989, he served township social movements working on financial justice based at the NGO Planact in Johannesburg from 1990-94. In 1994 and 1996, he worked in the Reconstruction and Development Ministry in President Nelson Mandela’s office. His best-known work is Elite Transition: From Apartheid to Neoliberalism in South Africa, and other critical analyses can be found in the books Politics of Climate Justice, BRICS and Resistance in Africa, Against Global Apartheid, Talk Left Walk Right, Looting Africa, The Accumulation of Capital in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe’s Plunge, Uneven Zimbabwe and Cities of Gold, Townships of Coal. He was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1961.

Rehad Desai

Following his return to South Africa from political exile Rehad worked as a health and safety/media officer for a chemical workers union and the head of a HIV prevention unit. In 1997 he completed a Masters in Social History at the University of the Witwatersrand, he then entered the TV and film industry as a current affairs journalist, and soon after moved on to focus his energy on historical and socio -political documentary film.

Miners Shot Down released in 2014 won local and international critical acclaim garnering 28 prizes including the Taco Keiper award for investigative journalism and an International Emmy for best documentary. Everything Must Fall is the last film in the trilogy, winning awards at home and abroad. He works in the media and strategy circles of XR and in one of the national spokespersons, he formed part of the of the drafting team for the C19 Peoples Coalition Programme of Action and is part of the national coordinating team.


Ashish Kothari

Founder-member of Indian environmental group Kalpavriksh and has coordinated India’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan process, served on Greenpeace International and India Boards, helped initiate the global ICCA Consortium, and chaired an IUCN network dealing with protected areas and communities. He helps in coordinating the Vikalp Sangam, Radical Ecological Democracy and Global Tapestry of Alternatives in search of alternative well-being pathways to globalized development.

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