How do we avoid the fate of the dinosaurs?

[Español] Pablo Solón: We are here in a new dialogue of systemic reflections, and this time, with Walden Bello who is a very well known sociologist from the Philippines, author of many books, his most recent book: “Counterrevolution: The Global Rise of the Far Right”. Walden was the Executive Director of Focus on the Global South a think-tank in Southeast Asia, and now he is joining us for this conversation from Bangkok, Thailand. And here I am again, with you, Pablo Solón from Bolivia. Walden Bello, it is a pleasure to see you again.

Well, we are here to speak about what is happening with neoliberal globalization. Is it going to die? Is it already dead? And the second and most important thing: What are the alternatives from the side of the people?

  • In order to start this conversation, we are going to hear first a small statement of Martin Khor, who was born in 1951 in Malaysia, he was the Director of Third World Network (TWN) created in 1994, and in 2008 he became Director of The South Centre an intergovernmental organization that has developing countries as members. Martin was very active in different multilateral issues, linked to trade, climate and finance. Martin passed away one week ago and we want to start this dialogue remembering something he said in an interview with Tom Kruse, just seven months ago.

Martin Khor

I think that the present crisis that we now face. You know we have the crisis on environment, especially climate change; we have the crisis of financial turbulence, which is the financial globalization and the financialization of the economy have gone ahead so fast and that was quite predictable for those who have been criticizing the financial globalization.

And finally we have the crisis of trading system that looks so impenetrable, that means is quite difficult to shake it. Just now, in a few years or months, the foundations seem to be unbundled crumbled. And finally we have this crisis of the real economy; maybe a global recession and this will probably magnify the inequalities and contradictions that hyperglobalization has brought about. And give more impetus to extremism, particularly a kind of unhealthy populism, that just looks for yourself and look at for your own interest and not cooperate with others. I think this is the stage we are now in. It’s not at the beginning stage, it’s already in the first half, the second half of it will be terrible.

Pablo Solón

What do you say, Walden? I think it’s a very interesting introduction done by Martin about what we are discussing. The crisis has already started, he said we’re not at the beginning, we’re almost at the middle and what’s coming is very terrible. The floor is yours.

Walden Bello

Well, I first of all, I think it was good to see Martin, I hadn’t seen him for a long, long time. What he said, was of course something that was very prescient, and what I would like to say is that about almost 15 years ago he had written a book, an edited book called “Alternatives to Globalization” that in about 20 years the system would blow up and that is why you had to, on the one hand, for the short term you have to protect the interest of developing countries through fighting of neoliberal reforms, which he was doing, in trade and climate issues meaning he was doing this as the head of the Third World Network and later on as head of the South Centre, he was a central figure in terms of opposing neoliberal measures that were being imposed on developing countries, and to some extent, he was also successful in that.

But he also said, that we have to prepare for a time after the crisis when there will be the opportunities to recreate the world. On what he thought it was “Ghandian” lives, namely smaller units, where people interact to one another by either the community level, the national level or the regional level, but certainly away of the sort of globalized economy. So that was something that he wrote 15 to 20 year ago, and so right here he is saying that the crisis is now upon us.

I think Martin saw the structural flaws, or the structural fissures of the globalized capitalist system. Although it seems that it had escaped going into collapse, after the 2008 – 2009 financial crisis, although it went into deep stagnation. But he saw that the sort of kind of solutions that you had, the kind of situations that were created and that emerged from that it was a very weak kind of system and that it was just a matter of time for the foundations to collapse. I think he had a really good sense of that. I don’t think he quite foresaw the coronavirus, the Covid-19, I don’t think that he thought that it would be a virus that would come, who knows he might have, but I don’t think he foresaw it that way.

The important thing is that he was saying that the structures are already quite weak, that they are rotten, and that something could happen in which that whole structure begins to come down. I think that was a very important message that Martin had, which a number of us shared, especially after the 2008 – 2009 crisis, we said that this is a very, very bad financial crisis which also hitting and creating havoc in the real economy, and we said that this was a time that we should begin to think of alternative ways of reorganizing our economic life. But once the peak of the crisis passed, it all went back to business as usual.

The kind of solutions that we, including you Pablo and others, the kind of systemic alternatives, that you called it, the kind of alternative arrangements that would not be capitalist arrangements, those were brushed aside, by the same powers that be, that had created the global financial crisis. That was an opportunity that was lost, and I think the opportunity that was lost there, was partly because of the weakness of the broad left, the broad progressive left. If the economic crisis of 2008-2009 had hit, if we only had a stronger progressive movement throughout the world, the outcome from that might have been different and we wouldn’t have this kind of situation that we have right now.

Now the big problem is that many of the broad left governments, or you might say broad liberal governments in Europe and the US in particular, had been implicated in neoliberal reforms, as they call it. For instance, the social-democrats in continental Europe, the labor party in Britain, the democrats in the US, they were the ones who had pushed for neoliberal reforms, that were destructive of the income of workers, resulted in incomes that were stagnant, and prioritized the business and prioritized the interests of corporations, and neglected, for instance, throughout the US, people who got indebted because they lost their homes, the big housing crisis in the US. I guess I’m pointing that out to say that the ability to wrestle with the crisis and the ability to make the crisis an opportunity to push for major fundamental changes was, could not be taken the opportunity to do that, because many of these forces, many of this broad left movements and political parties have been part of the problem in the first place. So this was then one of the major problems that made progressives or the left unable to take that opportunity to change the foundations of the system.

Moreover, what we saw was that, in many countries, because the social democrats and the democrats, the democratic party of the US, under for instance under Bill Clinton and later Obama were seen as not really promoting the interest of workers but instead were promoting the interest of big capitals. Many of working class base began to feel: oh my god where are we? who are representing us now? And so, there was a representational crisis, and many of these people    began to move to other parties. So these were opportunistic extreme right wing parties that basically had a message that said: look your old parties that you used to vote for are not taking care of you, they are part of the problem, and we are here and we are going to promote your interests. Saying that the big problem really is that have all of these migrants coming in to our shores and the liberals, the social-democrats, and even the central right were complicit with the migrants that were coming in and taking away your jobs, with no basis in fact at all, and moreover said that so many of these migrants don’t belong to our culture our religion and the economy must be only for those who had been here traditionally, from the beginning. In other words, for the white ethnic and that’s what the economy is for.

That was the kind of message that they got and that was the way they were able to recruit so many of these disillusioned people who felt that the traditional political parties had abandoned them. And some extreme right wing parties came to power in some countries, like for instance in Hungary under Viktor Orban. Then we had the situation where Trump was elected in the US mainly because workers that used to vote for the democratic party in the midwest, either went to the republicans or didn’t vote at all, which enabled Trump to win according to the rules of the US electoral system. Or they did not even need to go into the government, they just had to get a sizeable part of the vote and be in the parliament, just by that, the extreme right was able to push politics to the right.

This was not only developing in Europe and the US, but also in many other countries in the world. You had Bolsonaro that appealed to the same thing in Brazil, bringing together this appeal saying that the socialist or the workers party people had messed it up, that they are corrupted and that sort of thing. Duterte said that it was the drug addicts that were the problem, and he proceeded to say, and he won the 2016 elections in the Philippines, saying that the problem is crime. Modi in India, also appeared saying ok the problem are the muslims and we have to create a Hindu state.

So, the political currents, the right authoritarianism really stems from the crisis of the neoliberal-capitalism system, the way it was no longer fulfilling human needs, and the way that the left or a significant part of the left was seen as part of the problem, that it was complicit with this whole neoliberalism system. So basically, this was the sort of very dangerous formula that was coming together, and I think Martin, as we heard him, was referring to the political consequences of the rise of the right in that last interview that we saw.

So, for me, that was one dimension of it, but the bigger dimension of it to me, is what I referred to earlier. After the peak of the crisis, we had a new phase of globalization, this is something that I wrote about, and this new phase of globalization was what we would call “connectivity”. The idea was that its proponents were saying is that we have digital connectivity, but connectivity is also important in terms of economy, and above all we need connectivity in terms of transportation. We need air connectivity because that’s the source of successful globalization, and we also need more projects coming together across great distances. Here what happened is that, even as the US under Trump, went into a more economic nationalist kind of perspective, and Trump was leading this idea that America first, America first.

But it was China, under Xi Jinping, that came up saying “hey globalization is good, the only problem is that we need to fix up a bit here” and so China under Xi Jinping offered this idea, of global connectivity through the Belt and Road Initiative as they call it. The whole idea being that you had these two routes, that were taken but was created in the early modern period between Asia, Europe and China, and again those two routes, the maritime and the land route of ancient times, the image of that was invoked to say we will have now a new connectivity linking Europe to Asia.

And beyond that however it became bigger and bigger, so that by 2016 or 2017, you no longer had just two routes, no longer just the silk route and the maritime route, you now have 6 or 7 routes through around the world including a polar Silk Route and the Chinese government basically saying “hey, we are going to finance this to the tune of one trillion dollars and there will be lots of countries brought together, because this is the great connection” the BRI is the great connection, the Belt and Road Initiative.

So you have the situation therefore, the connectivity as a new phase. One of which was global transportation and connectivity, by faster and faster, faster cargo routes, faster air transportation, etc. Plus, this massive project that would extend throughout the world, in terms of connecting the world through railroads, coal, energy projects, capital intensive projects, all these big developmentalist type of projects that were supposed to be the future.

That’s the kind of phase of globalization that we had when the coronavirus struck just a few months ago. The irony of it is that, the so called air connectivity, faster, greater and better transportation links throughout the world, became the medium for the spread of the virus, which was moving at internet speed. So the very thing that connectivity had created, as supposedly the more glorious phase of globalization, also became the channels through which the virus spread very rapidly throughout the world.

But there was even a bigger problem here, Pablo, because the BRI was, had disregarded ecological considerations and that sort of thing, it was just supposed to be this big project that would go across the world and connect all of these different countries with all of this land, rail and other construction. There was in fact a study that was done, by I believe by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), that said that this was going to be a major ecological disaster, at various levels, deforestation and so many other problems, that would be created by this situation and impact on climate change. But it also said very interestingly and very worrisome way, that there were at least 800 invasive species that were not indigenous to the different ecologies that would cross over ecologically in those different countries where they would be going to have these vast BRI projects. It identified 800 amphibians, mammals and others, that, by not being in their natural habitats, would create dislocation.

Many of those, by the way, were animals identified like the pangolin or civet cats, that already have been identified in the past as carriers or hosts of viruses like the coronavirus, MERS and the others. So many of this wildlife, their lives or natural habitats would be damaged, and as we all know it is through this, the viruses do not affect the functioning of the animal hosts that they have, because they have in thousands of years they had developed immunity. But the problem is when the viruses leave the animals hosts to human beings who haven’t developed this immunity. Then there is where the problem really begins.

We already had warnings of this with the SARS epidemic or pandemic back in the early 2000, where again there was a virus that leaked through certain mediums like civet cats to human beings, and then the MERS virus was the same thing. But the common thing is that they disrupted, they were created by problems, intrusions of economic projects, the destruction of forests, the invasion by human beings on communities of wildlife, and this created then the conditions for species leaping from one species to another. I think this is what happened again, in what has been investigated with respect to the coronavirus, starting off in Wuhan, in the wet markets of Wuhan.

You can also imagine that with the BRI having such a big ecological impact, in so many countries in the world that was going be involved in it, that more and more this kind of leaping from one species to other by viruses would have been among the impacts, aside from the ecological destabilization that would in fact be taking place over this period.

So I guess what I’m trying to say here is that connectivity, the big catch word of the last several years, has created the conditions for this crisis and now it does seem like people are basically saying “oh my god, look what has happened here” Not only has the air connectivity been the channel for the rapid spread of the virus, and it does seem that it was this massive air transportation, this speed air infrastructure that was created, but when China began to shut down because of fears of the virus, people began to realize that it’s not just the problem of air connectivity, it’s the problem that globalization has brought us because of all the industrial facilities that had moved from the north, that had moved from the US, that had moved from different countries, from South East Asia, to China – because China became the so called manufactorer of the world –  and the reason they move there was because of cheap labor, because the way labor was exploited by the corporations like Foxconn for instance which was also partner of Apple.

So given the low wages, we have this situation for so many production facilities, became concentrated in China, and deindustrialization took place not only in the north, but also countries like Mexico, Brazil, South East Asia. So, many of the traditional industrial facilities were moved to China because of the idea of go to where you have the least cost of labor. So now they began to see when China shut down, then you had this big problem of supplies, of components, manufactured goods, there was going to be a fear that there would be delays, etc.

But even more tragic is that even basic manufactoring capacity for surgical masks, for syringes, for gloves, many of these countries have lost that and now your are basically seeing how in the US, for instance, which is the image a big modern country have workers that don’t even have access to surgical gloves, masks and what more the general population.

And all because of this idea that globalization means letting the market do its logic, it will create the best possible world, and it will create the most efficient relocation of production because industries will go were the cost are lowest. Sure they all went to China, of course this is an exaggeration, but then when the crisis hit, people and countries began to realize that they have lost their productive capacity.

Basically I think what really the coronavirus, Covid-19, has exposed is that globalization, which ran into major crisis in 2008- 2009 but had recovered, now might be its deathbed. It has shown that really not building up your economy to have a capacity for sustainability can in fact be the prescription for national disaster. And I think so many of these economists have basically said that don’t worry, let the market do its logic, it will allocate resources in the most efficient way. So that kind of ideology, the neoliberal ideology that was technocrats, Harvard business school, academics, etc. throughout the world, that bought in to that, must be seen as being part and parcel of the creation of this crisis.

So now you have the German Minister saying that we need to re-localize production, we need to re-localize this, etc. Sure, re-localization is correct but I don’t think that they really know what they are talking about. They are really thinking in the short term, that they just need to put some industries here and there, or Trump thinks and the others think that the defense production act in the US we’re going to put it into motion to push corporations to build heavy industrial facilities, to build surgical masks and that kind of thing. So they are thinking of it in very short terms, not strategic at all. But they don’t see that the problem really was this globalized division of labor, as you call it. That has been, that was created and it’s a mentality, and unless you get rid of that mentality, that basically continues to hold the minds of academics, technocrats, etc. you are not going to be able to get out of this crisis that the world is in right now.

My sense is that you will have all of these short term measures, you will have the two trillion dollars’ stimulus in the US, many other countries will do that. But this is like a Band-Aid to this, their hope is that once the crisis is gone, once it’s eliminated and you know the virus goes, we will go back to normal. That’s really what they are thinking at this point of time, and if that is what they are thinking then I think it’s up to the rest of us, who have been saying all along that the big problem has been this neoliberalism, globalization, corporations. These are the sources of the problems that we have right now.

It is really incumbent on us to push our alternatives out there, and say that there is no going back to the past because the past was the problem. We really need to reorganize things in a way that promotes the interests of human beings, that creates sustainable economies, that creates capacities, and that puts human interest ahead of the interest of profitability. I think that will be the fight that we will be engaged in now. The way I look at this, is that here is an opportunity, unfortunately it’s true that crisis is the mother of opportunity, and I think Martin also had this sense, and many others, that this is a time when we need to put alternatives forward. It’s not going to be easy, and part of the problem is that even as we are engaged in this internet kind of exchange we are also locked down. And the kind of proposals that we have is one that involves people in close physical contact with one another, marching on the streets, creating a critical mass and we’ll just have to deal with that in this period that we are physically isolated from one another, so it’s a really tough time for organizing.

Pablo Solón

Thank you very much, Walden. I take one thing that you said: this crisis we could have avoided if we would have learned from the crisis of 2008. But progressive movements wasted that precious time of almost 10 years, and here we are in a much deeper crisis than we had in 2008. What could we have done in order to avoid this crisis? You know everybody speaks about flattening the curve, you have heard it, so that the cases of coronavirus don’t have a peak in just a short period of time and they are spread, so you don’t go beyond the capacity of the health system in your country.

But there is another curve that we need to flatten and it’s the curve of productivity, of trade, of exploitation of natural resources, in order to not go beyond the capacity of the earth system. Because if we continue and this crisis we have gone beyond this, we have destroyed ecosystems of animals, we have destroyed the ecosystems of living beings. Of course now are emerging different ways provoking this kind of virus, and this will continue and we know it, we know that when climate change gets worse, permafrost will be lost and you will have thousands of new virus coming out to the air, and we know it. But we didn’t flatten the curve; we didn’t limit our activities to what was possible under this earth system.

If we don’t learn this time from this experience, if we don’t come out saying ok, what is the new economy and how this economy has to be embedded in nature that has to take account the limits of nature, it’s vital cycles, we are going to repeat the same mistakes.

I’ll take a second thing that also Martin says. This time the crisis I think are going to be worse because it’s not only a economic crisis, it’s the mix between an economic crises, an environmental crisis, now we are hearing a very social, deep crisis because hundreds and thousands and millions of workers are going to be fired and are going to be unemployed. Here in Bolivia the amount of small companies that are saying we will have to close because there is no demand, we don’t have resources to produce and so on. This means, we will have millions of millions of people in worse conditions than what we had already before the coronavirus.

So, all of these crises are coming together, it’s a much more complicated situation. I call it a more systemic crisis, because it brings everything, it’s a huge crisis and it’s not something as you clearly said, it’s not something that ok, and after two months we are going to back normal. I don’t think so.

Different studies show that even the coronavirus crisis is going to take at least one year, one year and a half or maybe two years. Only to get out of this, the quarantine maybe will be relaxed in some weeks or months. But that will not be over, new kinds of measures have to be put in place, because the situation will continue and we have to be very careful about it. But the crisis is going to be permanent, chronic. So, I think we have come from a capitalism that has always had cyclical crisis, into now a capitalism that has chronic crisis, lives in a crisis.

And I was thinking where are we in terms of globalization. So, the idea that I think it was the director of the WTO, I don’t know if you remember him, he said that his plan was to write a constitution for the world, and that was one of the main aims of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Well, that today is almost totally forgotten, because countries are fighting among themselves, there is very little solidarity, not only in the trade system, the European Union, what is happening with Germany and the Netherlands on one side, and Italy, France, Spain on the other side.

I say, we have entered a situation that is dominated by chaos, I call it a capitalism of chaos. Capitalism will continue, but will continue in the situation where there is no new order, there is disorder. And where capitalism will try to make as much money as they can in short interventions, putting their investments here, in many cases speculative, in many cases will try to buy some companies that are in bankruptcy. But the possibility of a new emerging economy now is more difficult than before.

So, it’s a new moment where it’s not the traditional neoliberalism policies. We will have more interventions of the states. But we will have to deal with this permanent crisis. And how to build, how to learn from previous mistakes and how to build new social networks, how to build social movements, that are not only focused on some immediate aspects, like of course you need to have relief to eat, for health, you need some kind of support from the state because the situation is terrible.

But you also need to think beyond that, to think, ok then: What are we going to do this time with the banks? Are we going to put all these huge amount of trillions of dollars to save again the banks? Or are we going to begin to put those resources to save the people? Are we going to continue with this increasing debt? Because debt is increasing. In my country probably that has increased more than 15% in the last couple of weeks, now and this is happening everywhere.

Now are we going to have a situation where we leave aside debt, there is debt relief because all the countries are going to come in a very bad shape after all this process of getting more debt. So, the issue of the debt is going to be again one of the key issues that have to do also with intellectual property and health is another issue.

So, I think in this very chaotic situation of permanent crisis to rebuild a movement that has in mind not only concrete demands for the day or for the coming weeks. But, to really change the economic structures in the countries. To take into account how to really flatten that other curve in order to not go beyond the limits of the earth system. And one point that you did mention, we need to also have a very strong program in terms of defending democracy, human rights and promoting them. And going even further in the democratization of the states, because what we will see more and more is authoritarian regimes, authoritarian measures, and the fight for democracy, and the fight for human rights for all, is going to be one of center piece in the building of this alternatives to the total failure of globalization, especially to this systemic crises, and this capitalism of chaos.

And finally we also have to think what other kind of world integration can we develop, so current multilateralism has also failed. Have you heard something that the United Nations (UN) has said in the past two or three months? I really haven’t heard about the UN, I heard about the World Health Organization (WHO), but the UN, the General Assembly, the Security Council, not.

Multilateralism is in a very deep crisis, and we need multilateralism. I think to criticize globalization doesn’t mean that we don’t want world integration. We need world integration; we need solutions that take into account the entire planet. But they have to be discussed in bodies where there is more fair representation from the different countries. It can’t be like be until now. At UN you have the 5 members of the Security Council, they have veto power, and do whatever they want, and the rest can approve resolutions but that cannot go further than that.

We have to change multilateralism; I know we are going to more local solutions; we are going to more solutions that are based on concrete territories. But on the other hand, if we want to have a world government that is able to save the people and nature, countries have to give up a part of their sovereignty to those multilateral bodies. So that they are able to control when a government does something like destroying the ecosystem of the Amazon or destroying ecosystems in Asia, that are going to have great impacts in the entire planet. So, we have to also rethink on the role of national states and of new multilateral bodies in order to confront the systemic crisis.

Walden Bello

Well definitely I agree with you, several things that I agree with you. We have to flatten that curve of the way that the capitalist economic system with its push for growth, growth, growth has really eaten up, gone beyond the limits of ecological stability. Definitely that curve has to be flattened and one of the things that came out in the 2008 to 2009 crisis was that, if you remember, in 2009 the rate of emissions went down.

And people said that it was one of the silver lining of that crisis. But of course, after two or three years it went up again. Now i think that one of the things that is going to certainly emerge because of the way that industrial economies and air connectivity, all of this have gone down, is that this creates some relief for the climate.

Unfortunately,  of course, this comes at the cost of a very strong human crisis. But nevertheless, that’s there. But we have to go beyond that, you’re definitely right, and that we have to take advantage of this opportunity and to really push for real agreements among societies and among governments that need to radically reduce emissions.

And not only that, reduce the ecological destabilization that’s taking place all around. Including the destruction of natural habitats of wildlife. In a way, we can say that this is the revenge of wildlife. So, there’s definitely that flattening of the curve which is going to be really difficult. It’s quite important, so I fully agree with you. The second thing that we need to realize is that this is going to create a really big political crisis. Right now, people are, because of fear, complying with all these different measures of social isolation and self quarantine but if governments cannot provide. The United States is having such a difficult time for people to stay alive economically during the crisis. People are not going to take that, I think people are going to come out into the streets whether or not they are self isolated or self quarantined, they are going to come out if the choice that they face is starvation. And so I think that the technocrats are thinking “oh we just do this and this and that” . They’ll send them a check or there will be social transfers that will take place in Philippines or Bolivia. So people can have access to relief goods.

They’re dreaming! The kind of political explosions that are going to come out of this. They haven’t even imagined that kind of thing. The worry that I have is, are we prepared to be able to provide the leadership for people when they are basically saying “we are not going to take this anymore”. We have authoritarian governments, even democratic governments have become more authoritarian, and so the challenge is how do we come out and be part of that mass anger in order to create the pressures for a change in the system.

And of course, this is, as you said, there is going to be in many ways, this is an uncontrolled force. But that’s always been the case, whenever there is a force, it can be either uncontrolled in a good way or in a bad way. It’s how one takes advantage and inserts oneself in the struggle in a certain direction. So that it moves in a progressive direction rather than in a direction that is bad. So it’s going to be like this in this situation, where we are not even talking about the food crisis that’s going to come out soon because farm systems all over are being disrupted and sure, the food and agriculture administrations say that there are enough supplies but hey, three four months down the line it’s going to have an impact in agriculture, especially in agriculture that now has been integrated in the same way as an industry. Whereby you have global supply chains that are falling apart, so once that hits, once the food crisis hits with the coronavirus crisis, the kind of political explosion that you’re going to have is going to be quite enormous, and that is what we need to be prepared for. So the big question that you raise is: how do we in the context of this crisis and a lot of uncontrolled forces are able to channel it in a progressive direction so that we have progressive forces come to power in countries and we avoid the authoritarian temptations. because there are of course the right wing people who will try to take advantage of this crisis to move in a more authoritarian direction against migrants, against minorities.

How do we do that? And then of course, what you just said is we have to have a progressive multilateralism and how do we have a progressive multilaterism at a time where the United Nations seems to be paralyzed. Clearly we cannot have the same old institutions, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, they are paralyzed at this point and they might as well just go, because they are not contributing to anything productive in terms of resolving the current situation. I think one of the things we really need to watch out is the way that governments will be making choices on the use of public money. Will they use it for people, for employment? Or will they use it to save the institutions of capitalism like the big banks. We know last time, in 2008, that the money was used to save the banks. For instance, in the United States, they said they were “too big to fail” and they put their money there instead of saving homeowners, at least that is the case of the United States.

And I think to some extent, that happened in so many other countries that were affected by the crisis during that time. Where peoples’ interest, and certainly as you pointed out, the governments of northern Europe sort of really pushed this squeeze on the people of southern europe to be able to save their own banks. They put the squeeze through austerity programs.

And we saw that impact in Italy, in Spain, in other countries, whereby the health systems were ruined, by the demands of austerity, by the German government, the Dutch government and the other banks. So basically, I think that fights over the allocation of government budgets, that’s going to be really central. I think that this is going to be a chronic crisis, there will be forces that are very hard to control. And that there are going to be political forces that will emerge to try to take advantage of the situation to bring about a system that is ultranationalist and against the majority of people. It’s within this context that we have to swim at this point, but i would say that we really need to grapple with the situation.

And only with grappling with it,  will provide the opportunities for leading the world into a more progressive direction. But I cannot see how that kind of deep crisis is going to be avoided at this point in time. I think we just need to keep our values intact and look for opportunities whereby we can convince people that the direction, whether we call it deglobalization or buen vivir or food sovereignty. These very rich alternatives, that people have been able to work out over the years, that they contain the elements of an alternative. They’re all there. People have been working on this progressive paradigm for years and as I said, what it needs is, how do we create a base for that? And I think that is the challenge that we have, while we have this chaos going on, how do we create a base for this progressive ecologically sane proposals that will also promote democracy and human equality.

It’s going to be very difficult but we have no choice but to push in that direction. The last thing I would say is, you remember how they said that the dinosaurs got eliminated because of the big meteor that came down from space and landed in the Yucatan peninsula and created this massive planetary destruction that ended the supremacy of the dinosaurs. I think that we are, in many ways, in that moment too, when it comes to the domination of the species. We have seen how fragile human society and human beings are in the face of the micro challenges coming from the virus.

And if you combine the challenge with the social challenge that is emerging from this in terms of the terrible conflicts which could emerge from this situation. When you combine that synergy then it might mean something similar in terms of the domination of the human species. So i think that at least we should learn something from the extinction of the dinosaurs, because unless we watch out, probably we might have brought that upon ourselves. Because as you, Pablo and others, have really pushed this idea that you just cannot keep on destroying the planet. At some point, the planet is going to have its revenge and I think this is a warning point, a tipping point and unless us as humans beings can get together to really be able to say “enough is enough”

we really have to create sustainable societies that sustain both the human community but have a benign relationship to the planet, to their environmental surroundings. I think this is the big challenge at this point in time. If we go back to the old system after this crisis, then I think we might have superficial stability for some time. But as Martin says, the crisis is just going to get even worse.

So this crisis is creating the opportunity. And i hope that us, progressive people, across the world are finally able to say “Hey, we have to take this very seriously, we have the alternatives, we are entering a period of chronic crisis and even conflict, we have to make sure that out of this a real new world emerges. That is not the old that has brought us to this crisis”

I wish I could say that I could be hopeful about the outcome, but maybe a more realistic position on my part, is rather than say to be hopeful, I would just say that we just have to get our shit together because if we don’t get our shit together, we are all going down.

Pablo Solón

Thank you very much, Walden, it has been a really interesting conversation with you. I agree with you. I think we can’t go back to normal. We just have to think that what we have been doing is the big part of the problem. Dinosaurs got extinct because a meteorite came from outside, but in this case we have created our own meteorite that is going to end us. So it is in our hands to stop that meteorite that we have created, the dinosaurs didn’t have that option, we have, now are we going to do it or not? That is the question. Of course, we know the big interests that are involved, many of the capitalist sectors and banks, just want to go back to normal and do business as usual, but if this time we really don’t change, don’t build a new path, I think yes we are on the track of the dinosaurs in the 21st century. It has been a very great pleasure to be with you, Walden.

Walden Bello

Thank you very much, too. This has been a very interesting and very productive discussion. I do hope that many more discussions like this are taking place now. I think this is really an opportunity to create, even if its virtually at first, and physically later on, to transform where we are at this point so we have a better world rather than a worse world.

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