The world has been changing fast, and so must social movements, to keep up with the emerging challenges. The most significant aspect of the fast-changing world is the emergence of very serious threats to the basic life-nurturing conditions of earth, and in keeping with the recognition of this as the most important issue, social movements must prepare in many creative as well as difficult ways to face this overwhelming  challenge.

However even as they do so, social movements must be very careful to preserve and consolidate their previous commitments to justice, equality, democracy and peace as these are invaluable in themselves and in also  provide a firm base and a sound framework for taking up the new challenges. In fact, without these old strengths and commitments the success of the brave new struggles for protecting and saving life-nurturing conditions of our planet is not possible as any such efforts devoid of old commitments will be too weak and will not take firm roots and gather enough support.

At present it is common to identify efforts to protect life-nurturing conditions of earth more in terms of two efforts –firstly efforts to check climate change and some other serious environment problems and secondly disarmament efforts, mainly those related to checking nuclear weapons. While obviously both these efforts are extremely important , it is not at all correct  to see the efforts to protect life-nurturing conditions only in terms of these two kinds of efforts and it is important also to recognize the very important linkages with wider concerns of justice, equality, peace, democracy, environment protection, bio-diversity and protection of all forms of life.

Therefore the wider movement for protection of all forms of life should take care not only to preserve the old strengths of justice, democracy, equality ( including gender justice, equality and democracy at all levels) and other important social movements but also consolidate them in terms of building strong linkages, with an enhanced, better understanding of how all these contribute to each other and how with their consolidated strength can contribute much more to resolving the rapidly emerging survival crisis as well.

Justice and equality, at various levels and in different contexts, have been the most abiding concerns of social movements since ancient times, taking various forms. Their relevance has not decreased, it has only increased in recent times which have witnessed huge increase in wealth and income inequality.

Democracy and democratic spirit have also faced increased onslaughts, with even countries recognized for democracy related achievements exhibiting amazing violations, exposing the fragility and weaknesses  of their democratic foundations.

Disarmament is in disarray and retreat at various levels, including some critical ones. A wider and stronger peace movement cutting across national boundaries has not really emerged, despite its great need, and the ability to United Nations or other international organizations to contribute to such a justice-based peace movement  is doubtful. At least nothing of great significance has emerged yet, something with the capacity to respond to the big challenges that exist.

Despite these sad realities which need to be recognized, there is absolutely no doubt that a very large number of people desire such changes and several hundred thousand of them, as well as several thousand organizations as well, have made important contributions and continue to do important, encouraging work which gives hope. An important task ahead is to build more linkages, emphasizing how different movements can contribute to the strength of each other, and grow together. In this task the emergence of more and increasing consensus on a world-vision based on justice, peace, democracy and environment protection , plus a vision of how various social movements can together contribute  to creating this vision as well to resolving the survival crisis will be very useful.

All this should be the place for the most creative, most needed and most useful work of coming days. These will be difficult times for them, but social movements will overcome these difficulties if they build carefully on old strengths to confront new challenges.

This role will be very important, in itself and also for confronting those global elites who have a tendency to use new bigger crises to push  for more selfish, narrow solutions which are catastrophic at worst, unpredictable at best. Those with authoritarian trends tend to use crisis situations to increase their authoritarianism. Those with big business interests tend to use  new crises to double or triple their billions. When both these tendencies are combined the results are even more catastrophic. Such trends have been seen in more recent times and are likely to be aggravated in future. Hence a wider role of social movements is certainly needed to provide a different vision, a proper understanding and a suitable response to emerging crisis situations.

Bharat Dogra is a veteran journalist and author. His recent books like ‘Planet in Peril’ and ‘Protecting Earth for Children’ make a strong case for grassroots, people-centered efforts making a strong contribution to resolving the survival crisis.


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