Two important aspects of present-day world are increasingly clear. Firstly, while the need for closer unity of sincere social movements has always been there, but in the middle of increasing and to some extent unprecedented difficulties, the need for such unity has certainly increased further in recent times. Secondly, ironically, while this need for more unity has increased, at the same time, several difficulties in the path of this unity have also increased. The reason is that not only is the emerging reality of our world increasingly complex, in addition some of the newly emerging issues can be very divisive even within social movements and among very sincere persons. This is at least partly because very powerful persons are trying to manipulate reality in very unfair ways.
Despite all these problems, this much is clear that the unity of movements of justice, peace and environment protection is very important at this critical juncture of human history, or rather earth history. At another level, the unity of sincere social movements of the rich and poorer countries is also very important. There is need for much better understanding at this level. There is special need for discussing the more divisive issues in a more democratic and transparent way, all differing viewpoints getting a fair hearing instead very unjust accusations being hurled at some. In particular it has become very important to reach better understanding and unity based on careful study of certain important issues of health and food.
Despite all problems, let us not forget that there are various ways in which various sincere social movements complement each other and their goals taken together contribute to a better world. This is very clear about the movements for justice and equality, movements for peace, movements for environment protection and movements for strengthening democracy in various ways. Closer cooperation will also help to remove some misunderstandings and bring some corrections on the basis of better understanding of points of views of others. Ultimately closer cooperation will lead to the strengthening of all social movements for creation of a better world.
While this has been obvious all along, the kind of larger, longer-term unity of various social movements that is needed has not generally been possible in many countries. Now it is time to assert that such a unity is needed more than ever before and hence the efforts for this should receive wide support.
One main reason why such unity is more needed now is that a number of survival issues or existential issues are getting more serious with each day. Time bound action is needed to resolve these issues to avoid disruption of life-supporting conditions on our planet before it is too late, and this is nowhere in sight in the context of most of these problems.
Apart from climate change and accumulation of weapons of mass destruction several other existential problems have been identified including, among others, alarming rate of loss of species, freshwater crisis, changes in oceans, air pollution, disruption of food systems, chemical pollution and exposure to a range of new hidden hazards.
There can be some difference of opinion regarding the identification of all survival and existential problems but there is no doubt whatsoever that a number of such issues exist—perhaps a dozen, perhaps a little less or more, which need to be resolved on the basis of urgency as early as possible to protect the life nurturing, life-supporting conditions of our planet. Since this is obviously a task of the highest priority, this can hopefully become a convergence point for various social movements. Their one common aim, in addition to the various specific and separate aims of various small and big social movements, can be to strive to resolve these issues within a specific time limit and within the broad framework of justice, peace and democracy.
The fact that the political leaderships and the technocratic and bureaucratic elites attached to them have by and large failed miserably to find time-bound solutions to worsening existential problems is another strong reason why the voice of social movements should become stronger and the most obvious way of achieving this is to call for growing cooperation and unity among social movements and the creation of a convergence point for them around which such unity can grow.
The environmental movement is already concerned closely about most of these existential problems but it needs the help of the peace movement to check some of the biggest pollutants involved in wars and preparation for wars and to also to create the conditions of stability in which various nations can cooperate for various big tasks of environment protection. The environment movement needs the help of the justice movement to give a much-needed justice orientation to programs of environment protection so that these can get the enthusiastic support of workers and peasants who can make the most contribution at the ground level for their success.
The peace movement needs the support of the justice movement to create the conditions for peace at the ground level and also to get mass support for a justice –based agenda of peace. The peace movement obviously has the lead role in eliminating various weapons of mass destruction and reducing all other weapons as well.
The various movements for justice and equality need to more effectively inform people that the emergence of various survival issues—for example the need now to strongly limit GHG emissions in conditions of very limited carbon and overall GHG space—has further strengthened the case for reducing inequalities and how this is more necessary now than ever before for meeting the basic needs of all people.
The various movements for strengthening democracy are extremely important also for creating the basic conditions in which the various social movements can grow and can become an effective force in various countries and finally at the world level. At the same time there is greater need for creating more genuine democracy and transparency within social movements. This will be particularly important for resolving differences on more contentious issues like the ongoing pandemic.
Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author who has been close to several social movements.