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Written by John   
 
Notes from the 7th AGJS

By John (Philippines)
 
The 7th Asian Global Justice School was a breath of fresh air for me.   For many of us in the Philippines, it was a privilege to share insights among like-minded people committed to a non-dogmatic, thoroughly democratic, pluralist, and internationalist socialism.  It provided an interesting contrast to ideas propagated by the traditional dominance of a Stalinist left that has tended to stifle new thinking.  In many ways, the baggage of the anti-dictatorship struggles of the 1970s-80s and splits of the 1990s remains with us, freezing us in time like Marquez’s Macondo.
 
Many of the participants of the School were young and of diverse backgrounds.  Key debates revolved around the evolution of class and class society, the legacy of imperialism, religious fundamentalism and liberation theology, socialist feminism, and the intersections between gender and ecology.  Speakers and participants together anchored their understanding of socialist strategy on an expanded definition for the working class. Understanding the role of political parties and their relationship to social movements has become all the more critical in the emerging contexts of globalisation and the changing nature of the state.
 
The School also offered us a one day field trip through the support of the Philippine Airline Employees’ Association (PALEA) and Partido ng Manggagawa (PM). If narratives of the left have overwhelmingly been of failure and despair, it was heartening to learn of the victories of Philippine airline workers and workers organising themselves in the most desperate of circumstances in Cavite’s Special Economic Zones (SEZ).
 
Particularly interesting for me as a student of geography and political ecology was  to learn of social movements around the world exploring new visions for challenging dispossession and reclaiming the commons, from indigenous and peasant land occupations in Latin America to regular climate marches that have mobilised thousands across Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India. Together these amount to a long and patient process of practical struggle and the rebuilding of a consciousness of possibility in a world where hope is a vulgar thing.
 
There are still dawns
 
A key challenge that participants kept raising is the fragmentation of the left– at times driven by personal differences, more than real principle –  in a capitalist society that has so narrowed our political possibilities and inscribed in our movements a neoliberal logic of competition, it as though every Marxist party that comes our way is a company seeking monopoly market share. 
 
This is at odds with the dynamism  that should be at the heart of a solidarity that is open and plural, whose strength derives not from marching on behalf of a fetishized party, but in walking patiently among ourselves: the dispossessed and exploited; the troublemakers, seekers of beauty, finders of nature. All of us – rebels. 
 
In that sense, Utopia( in times like these, taboos have revolutionary potential) or victory, or whatever you choose to call it; will always be a moving target. It is not fixed for all time or set  in advance by a Party that stands  apart from the people, but an organic process of  finding the strength in ourselves, though we are battered on all sides by a world that insists change is impossible. 
 
If we sincerely believe that raising the tattered banner of the left is a project worth our time, then the task at hand is to reclaim our collective imagination and struggle together despite our differences for a socialism fundamentally opposed to the (i)rrationalities of profit, war, violence, and eco-cidal growth, and that makes possible radical forms of democracy that pushes us past the legacy  of  20th century “socialism”.
 
I’ve seen seeds of this in the friendships we’ve made at the AGJS. I honestly believe in the possibility of revitalising the left in these dark times.
 
At the end of the day, there are still dawns.
 
PS - I extend my thanks to the organisers and participants (and wonderful meals!) of the 7th AGJS. My only wish is that we stay in touch.
 
 

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