Emmaus International

At the World Forum of Alternatives, Roberto Savio, Argentine founder of alternative media Inter Press Service and Othernews and activist fighting for the right to information insisted on the need to stand up for the values of social justice and solidarity to face the capitalist economic system and neoliberal ideologies.


Roberto Savio © David SInza

Greed and Fear are the Main Drivers

“Since the fall of the Berlin wall, our world has seen thirty years of focus on greed, the market, competition and individual successes. A world shaped by mechanisms that have removed people from the core of our society and replaced them instead with the market.This change in values meant that nobody could criticise globalisation for more than 20 years.

In international conferences about economics if you criticised globalisation in any way you were immediately seen as a Trotskyist. However, with time people have stopped looking only at the macroeconomic picture and have looked closer, realising that all this economic growth has not led to development, but growth that is concentrated in only a few hands. In 1910 2,000 individuals possessed the same amount of wealth as 2.5 billion people. Today there are only 60 such individuals. Wealth is becoming increasingly concentrated while the poor are becoming ever poorer.

On top of this change in values and following 20 years of greed we are now entering the years of fear. Historians agree that greed and fear are two important factors in any major historical changes and today we can see that these two factors are forming a society characterised by xenophobia and nationalism as seen through phenomena such as Brexit as well as the elections of Trump, Salvini, Orban and others. In Europe, Steve Bannon, former advisor to Donald Trump, is launching an alliance of the far right which would include nationalists and staunch defenders of sovereignty…

Young people who have grown up in this context thus believe that this situation is the norm. The term “social justice” has disappeared from the public debate. No-one talks about “solidarity” anymore and yet if you read the constitutions of many of our countries you can see several references to solidarity, to human rights, to cultural elements, to vision, social fabric and the values we were taught.

What I want to highlight is that your struggle is a struggle for values: I have noted that what motivates you, including the poorest people, are the values of humanity and dignity. But this goes against our societies’ current value system. This goes against what politicians are using to gain votes and to get into power. This goes against the system of consumerism and the dominance of the market. But you’re not leading this fight alone, this struggle has existed throughout history and we must all be aware of that. You are flying the flag for which thousands of people have given their lives over the years. Generations of people have spent their lives creating a movement for a fairer world, a world of solidarity."

Becoming Outraged and Standing Up for Our Values

"Another important aspect that I have noted is how you have not lost the capability to become outraged, unlike most people in the world of today.

I believe that we’re in an age of sleepwalking. Let’s look at the example of climate change: this issue is urgent, it will affect us all and yet nothing is being done to prevent it from happening. We have, in all likelihood, already lost this battle.

Poverty is also a priority and yet it has become invisible in the public debate. Since the market has taken over, poverty has been considered inevitable, but this is not true and we should, therefore, declare poverty illegal, whilst looking inwards in order to identify the causes of this crisis. We must fight this situation and declare poverty illegal in order to wake our fellow citizens from their sleepwalking.

I believe that the debate between socialism and capitalism that characterised my generation is no longer valid. Capitalism has created a world which is no longer viable and the system will have to acknowledge, sooner or later, that we are living in a world which we can no longer govern, which is no longer sustainable and which is no longer legitimate.

Unfortunately the Left and its struggles against neoliberal globalisation are moving closer towards this New Right. We’ve had the ‘New Left’ that consented to govern globalisation, which ended in a resounding failure. Today’s ‘New Right’ is not based on ideology, but on identity and feelings and aspects that are totally disconnected from veritable political theory. This New Right is one of frustration, of exclusion, of the victims of liberal globalisation and is leading to the creation of new forms of government.

When Trump speaks to his 63 million Twitter followers he is directly addressing his future electors: 88% of them would like him to be re-elected for a second term. These are people who don’t read newspapers, who don’t listen to the media and who are totally dependent on this horizontal relationship with their leader.

Things are going to be tough in the next few years. In the public debate we no longer hear about politics and ideas, the focus is on feelings and fears, including the fear of immigration and the supposed threat it represents. There is a lack of ideological debate in our societies and that is why I believe our strength must be to demonstrate that we have values, values that are part of History and we must, thanks to these values, leave this politics of fear and return to a politics of real ideas and content.

I hope that my speech, the speech of an old man telling his life story, will help you see that your struggle is part of a long, noble tradition. Your struggle is essential for individual people but is also of historical significance."

Genève le 19 septembre 2018