It seems callous to analyze matters relative to the comforts of the West about political “opportunity” in third world slums. Is it necessary to move beyond the standard pity and fear of slum-dwellers and start recognizing us, as political agents, not just victims of the global system of capital?
We, are the counter-class to the other newly emerging sect, the so-called “symbolic class” (managers, academics, artists, etc.) that is also uprooted and that perceives itself as directly universal. Would not this “symbolic class” witness the slum community as the death of their own evolution? In real shouldn’t this “symbolic class” percieve us, as the guardians and the prime source of their own social comfort?
Indeed squatters mix more concrete than any developer and lay more bricks than any government. Yet, the labour-power of a billion people has been expelled from the world system, and who can imagine any plausible scenario, under neo-liberal auspices, that would reintegrate them as productive workers or mass consumers? Speak to any woman: she doesn’t want to live on the street or on railway tracks. She dreams of a better home for her children. She doesn’t want to leave them plastic sheets when she’s dead.
Facts of Urbanisation
The scale of world urban oppression today: Mumbai, with ten to twelve million squatters and tenement dwellers, is the global capital of slums, followed by Mexico City and Dhaka, with slum populations of nine or ten million, and then Lagos, Cairo, Karachi, Kinshasa-Brazzaville, São Paolo, Shanghai and Delhi, with around seven million slum dwellers each. The Middle East has Baghdad’s Sadr City (1.5 million) and Gaza (1.3 million), while the corrugated-iron shacks of Cité Soleil, in Port-au-Prince, and Kinshasa’s Masina district each hold half a million souls. India has nearly 160 million slum-dwellers, and China over 190 million. In Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Sudan, over 70 per cent of the urban population lives in slums. (2)
Global Statistical Note on Slums
The earth has urbanized even faster than originally predicted by the Club of Rome in its notoriously Malthusian 1972 report, Limits of Growth. In 1950 there were 86 cities in the world with a population over one million; today there are 400, and by 2015, there will be at least 550.  Cities, indeed, have absorbed nearly two-thirds of the global population explosion since 1950 and are currently growing by a million babies and migrants each week.  The present urban population (3.2 billion) is larger than the total population of the world in 1960. The global countryside, meanwhile, has reached its maximum population (3.2 billion) and will begin to shrink after 2020. As a result, cities will account for all future world population growth, which is expected to peak at about 10 billion in 2050. 
Ninety-five per cent of this final buildout of humanity will occur in the urban areas of developing countries, whose population will double to nearly 4 billion over the next generation.  (Indeed, the combined urban population of China, India and Brazil already roughly equals that of Europe plus North America.) The most celebrated result will be the burgeoning of new megacities with populations in excess of 8 million, and, even more spectacularly, hypercities with more than 20 million inhabitants (the estimated urban population of the world at the time of the French Revolution).  In 1995 only Tokyo had incontestably reached that threshold. By 2025, according to the Far Eastern EconomicReview, Asia alone could have ten or eleven conurbations that large, including Jakarta (24.9 million), Dhaka (25 million) and Karachi (26.5 million).
Shanghai, whose growth was frozen for decades by Maoist policies of deliberate under-urbanization, could have as many as 27 million residents in its huge estuarial metro-region.  Mumbai (Bombay) meanwhile is projected to attain a population of 33 million, although no one knows whether such gigantic concentrations of poverty are biologically or ecologically sustainable. 
The Epilogue of Slums II
This proves the fact that this is not a marginal phenomenon, but rather the fast growth of a population outside State control, living in conditions half outside the law, in terrible need of the minimal forms of self-organization. The ‘Big Bang’ of ‘urban refugees’ comes after 1975, with the imposition of IMF-World Bank Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) which ‘devastated rural smallholders by eliminating subsidies and pushing them to sink, or swim, in global commodity markets dominated by heavily subsidized First World agribusiness’. At the same time, the SAPs enforced ‘privatization, removal of import controls . . . and ruthless downsizing in the public sector’. And they were accompanied by the 1976 switch of IMF-World Bank policies—under the joint influence of Robert McNamara and former anarchist urbanist John Turner—to ‘self-help’ slum-improvement schemes in place of new house-building, representing, in Mike Davis’s words, ‘a massive downsizing of entitlement’, which soon hardened into neoliberal anti-state orthodoxy.
The net result has been a gigantic increase in urbanization ‘decoupled from industrialization, even from development per se’.The relentless waves of hominess nova pouring into the cities are far in excess of the demand for their labour. The combination of lack of work plus ultra-low wages leaves this foot-slogging infantry of the global economy deprived of the basic means of human subsistence. One cannot enter the colonies populated by these people in Latin America, Africa and Asia (Colombo) without being struck by the acute exploitation that prevails there.
As in Victorian times, ‘the categorical criminalization of the urban oppressed is a self-fulfilling prophecy, guaranteed to shape a future of endless war in the streets’. From the mid-1990s, US military theoreticians have been urging preparation for ‘protracted combat’ in the nearly impassable, maze-like streets of oppressed Third World cities. As the journal of the US Army War College described in a 1996 article entitled ‘Our Soldiers, Their Cities’:
The future of warfare lies in the streets, sewers, high-rise buildings, and sprawls of houses that form the broken cities of the world . . . Our recent military history is punctuated with city names—Tuzla, Mogadishu, Los Angeles [!], Beirut, Panama City, Hué, Saigon, Santo Domingo—but these encounters have been but a prologue, with the real drama still to come.
The names are those of the cities, but the real danger lurks in their vast slums where alienated and seething masses dwell. In the opinion of researchers operating from state-run American think-tanks, ‘security forces should address the sociological phenomenon of excluded populations’. Mike Davis backs up this documentation with quotations from Pentagon sources that argue the case for contingency plans in support of ‘a low-intensity World War of unlimited duration against criminalized segments of the urban oppressed’. Quite rightly he concludes that this mindset reveals the true ‘clash of civilizations’.
(1) In the book ‘Planet of Slums’ by Mike Davis 2006 May
(2) The Challenge of Slums: Global Report on Human Settlements 2003 UN Human Settlements Programme 2003
(3) Case of Colombo, Sri Lanka by Sevanatha 2001 page 9
 UN Population Division, World Urbanization Prospects, the 2001 Revision, New York 2002.
 Population Information Program, Population Reports: Meeting the Urban Challenge, vol. xxx, no. 4, Fall 2002, p. 1.
 Wolfgang Lutz, Warren Sandeson and Sergei Scherbov, ‘Doubling of world population unlikely’, Nature 387, 19 June 1997, pp. 803–4. However the populations of sub-Saharan Africa will triple and
 Global Urban Observatory, Slums of the World: The face of urban poverty in the new millennium?, New York 2003, p. 10.
 Although the velocity of global urbanization is not in doubt, the growth rates of specific cities may brake abruptly as they encounter the frictions of size and congestion. A famous instance of such a ‘polarization reversal’ is Mexico City: widely predicted to achieve a population of 25 million during the 1990s (the current population is probably about 18 or 19 million). See Yue-man Yeung, ‘Geography in an age of mega-cities’, International Social Sciences Journal 151, 1997, p. 93.
 For a perspective, see Yue-Man Yeung, ‘Viewpoint: Integration of the Pearl River Delta’, International Development Planning Review, vol. 25, no. 3, 2003.
 Far Eastern Economic Review, Asia 1998 Yearbook, p. 63.