The World Economic Forum has become the bugbear of the right-wing in Canada, and beyond. Conspiracies swirl about how this shadowy, globalist cabal that wants us to live in pods, eat bugs, and “own nothing, but be happy.”
It’s tempting to dismiss these impulses as mere conspiracy theory and faux populism. Even if that’s true, there are many things wrong with the WEF–as any good leftist would (or should) tell you. Yet, it seems that we have let up a bit.
The WEF is yet another example of the scrambled ideologues of our moment. Conservatives condemn the WEF, and news organizations like Rebel cover it doggedly; at the same time, left-leaning NGOs speak there, and progressive news organizations say little. What’s going on? On this episode, we examine the shifting political discourse surrounding our global financial elites. How can the left operate in this ideologically confusing moment?
First, we take it back to the heyday of the 90s global justice movement. Activist, author, and academic Raj Patel revisits the Battle in Seattle. Then too, there were some reactionary forces pushing an anti-globalization line against the WTO. However, the real politics there were different: it was built on global justice and global solidarity. Could we bring back the spirit of the 90s?
Then, we go to Davos and look for left-leaning protesters organizing against the WEF. Each year, there is a planned “protest hike,” quite far from the actual WEF site, because Swiss authorities push demonstrates away. Yet, the WEF also invites individual activists in. Producer Marc Apollonio speaks with three Swiss organizers — from Strike WEF, the Young Socialists of Switzerland, and from Greenpeace — to learn about how they are pushed and pulled by the WEF.
Finally, academic and documentarian Joel Bakan is well-known for his hit documentary The Corporation, which was released in 2003–not long after the Battle in Seattle. Today, he tells us the politics are completely different: corporate leaders, including those at WEF, tell us they’re actually the good guys. His new follow-up film The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel says that this new warm-and-fuzzy branding makes the corporation even more dangerous.
This episode received support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. It’s part of our mini-series that we are producing which looks at the radical imagination, in all its hopeful and its sometimes troubling manifestations. The scholarly leads are Professors Alex Khasnabish at Mount Saint Vincent University and Max Haiven at Lakehead University. They are providing research support and consulting to this series. For a full list of credits of Cited Media staff, visit our about page.