Forwarded from Roger Burbach

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Feb 5 16:06:56 MST 2002


The World Social Forum In Porto Alegre:
A Wind of Hope in a World At War
By Roger Burbach

The second World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 
marked a dramatic counterpoint for a world that has been 
caught in a world of war and death since September 11. For six 
days starting on January 31, more than 51,000 people from 
around the globe participated in conferences, workshops, 
demonstrations, and innumerable informal gatherings and 
meetings.  As Francisco Whitaker, a member of the organizing 
committee from Brazil noted, “The Forum is a wind of hope that 
has taken hold in all of our hearts.” Almost 5 thousand 
organizations from 131 countries participated along with 11,600 
young people who stayed in tents at the International Youth 
Camp. 

In contrast to last years forum, which drew about 10,000 
participants, this one moved forward dramatically from the first 
day, advancing the organizing theme of the Forum that “another 
world is possible.”  Concrete discussions were held in hundreds 
of workshops about what types of organizations could replace 
institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World 
Trade Organization. As Walden Bello, an economist from the 
Philippines noted on the first day:  "It won't do to replace the 
neoliberal ethic of the IMF and World Bank with a more social 
democratic one. We need new institutions that express the 
principles of what we should be calling 'deglobalization.'" 

Representatives of peasant and worker’s organizations along 
with organic farmers, cooperative members, public housing 
representatives and advocates of local currencies held in depth 
discussions about how they could forge an “economy of 
solidarity,” one that would foment popular economic institutions 
and that would require fundamental changes in national and 
international laws that currently favor multinational corporations. 
As Carlos Tiburcio of the organizing committee stated: “The 
Forum is now recognized as a platform of social and economic 
discussion.  It is in effect a new global entity, in which the 
peoples of the world can collaborate collectively.” Francisco 
Whitaker added: “The Social Forum has now become a political 
power with the appearance of United Nations officials at the 
Forum who recognize that our struggles and demands are 
legitimate.”

On the second last day of the Forum, tens of thousands 
participated in a public march against the Free Trade Area of the 
Americas (FTAA), the new corporate driven free trade pact that 
the Bush administration along with most of the other state 
leaders of the hemisphere are trying to foist on their peoples.  
The Landless Workers Movement of Brazil along with peasant 
organizations from around the world were in the forefront of the 
march.  As Vidalia Benitez of a Paraguayan peasant organization 
from stated: “The FTAA is bad not only for Brazil and Latin 
America, but for the entire world.  It will only bring us hunger, 
death, more people in poverty and prison and more torture.”

The huge demonstration also drew attention to the war that has 
been unleashed in the aftermath of September 11.  One large 
banner proclaimed: “Stop the Planetary Dictatorship of Bush.”  
On the same day the Forum sent a declaration to Kofi Annan of 
the United Nations titled “A World Without Wars.”  It 
demanded that the United Nations take a position against the 
U.S. war in Afghanistan and that the UN intervene decisively in 
the Palestine-Israeli conflict.  If the UN doesn’t act, the 
declaration noted, “The UN will loose its credibility in front of 
the entire world.”

Outside of Brazil, the largest contingent of representatives after 
Italy came from Argentina.  The social explosion that has 
erupted Argentina in the past two months was discussed in many 
of the workshops and special assemblies that were convened to 
inform people from other countries about unfolding 
developments in Argentina.  The situation there was especially 
poignant for the Forum because the economic crisis of Argentina 
is the consequence of the very institutions that the Forum is 
seeking to replace.  Vilma Ripol, a Parliamentary Deputy from 
Argentina, proclaimed that the situation in Argentina 
demonstrates the “collapse of neo-liberalism and the failure of 
international capital. The old political leadership of Argentina and 
their policies of catering to foreign interests are completely 
discredited.”  Reflecting the sentiment of most Argentines 
present at the Forum, she called for “the replacement of the 
current political class.  As the crisis deepens we will form a 
provisional assembly comprised of workers, the unemployed, 
the non-dogmatic parties of the left, the barrio and regional 
organizations that have been assembling throughout the country 
in recent weeks, and all those who have suffered from the 
current regime.  There will be no payment of the international 
debt, the banks must be nationalized.”

The massive gathering of the delegates on the final day of the 
second World Social Forum was a euphoric event.  The short 
statements by a variety of people, the chants from the audience, 
the common spirit, the waving of white flags that had become the 
symbol of the Forum, the music that people sang and danced to-
-it was a mesmerizing and unforgettable experience.  Indigenous 
representatives played a particularly important role. As a native 
Indian from Colombia stated: “The motherland is for all of us, 
not for the gluttony of the mutinational corporations.  The 
material world we have to change is inside ourselves as well as 
around us.  Each one of us goes forward from here with a 
commitment to make the world a place where we can create a 
union between nature and humanity.”

At the final meeting the international organizing committee 
announced that the next forum will be held on the same dates in 
Porto Alegre in 2003, and then in India in 2004.  But later this 
year in preparation for the 2003 gathering, a series of regional 
forums will be held in Africa and Asia, in Quito, Ecuador, at a 
site to be determined in the Mediterranean area, in Californian in 
the U.S., and in Palestine.  As the conference declaration states, 
“these regional gatherings will complement the globalizing spirit 
of the World Social Forum.”

-- 
Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 02/05/2002

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