The World Social Forum is a meeting place for all kinds of organisations that fight against neo-liberalism, including environmentalists, trade unionists, and others who wants to go further and seek an alternative, "another world", according to André Ferrari from the Brazilian section of CWI, Revolutionary Socialism.
World Social Forum, Brazil.
The third annual meeting of the World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegre, Brazil, takes place from 23-28 January 2003. Many thousands of anti-capitalists and environmental, human rights and trade union activists are attending the event, which aims to discuss ways of fighting neo-liberalism. Undoubtedly the event this year will also be heavily dominated by discussions regarding Bush’s war plans for Iraq and on how to resist imperialism.
Members of the CWI will be participating at the WSF, putting forward a socialist alternative to capitalism. The following is an interview conducted by Marcus Kollbrunner from the Swedish CWI section (Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna) with André Ferrari, a member of the CWI in Brazil (Socialismo Revolucionario).
100,000 expected at World Social Forum
This is the third and last time the WSF will be held in Porto Alegre. Next time, the gigantic event will move to India.
In the beginning, at the first forum, there was a debate as to whether the event should involve protests and demonstrations as well as discussions, André explains. But we have always argued that it is impossible to separate the discussions from the need for concrete struggle and mobilisation.
The advantage with the Forum is that it gathers activists from around the world that are seeking an alternative. But the event also has some big limitations. Several of the organisations involved in the running of the WSF do not have a perspective for a clear alternative to capitalism. There are illusions that you can create a "human" capitalism, free from neo-liberalism, through reforms. One of the tasks for the Left is to intervene in the Forum discussions and to show that the whole system must be abolished, not just the worst features – it is all connected.
WSF grows enormously
The first WSF was in 2001. There were 15,000 participants and 3,000 in the youth camp, which ran in the city at the same time. Last year, there were 60,000 at the Forum and 15,000 at the camp. WSF has grown together with the struggle and this year it is estimated that 100,000 will participate and up to 30,000 will attend the youth camp. Many were worried that the movement against capitalist globalisation would diminish after September 11 2001 but the resistance has instead grown as a response to the offensive from US imperialism, such as the war against Afghanistan and the threat of war against Iraq.
The world situation makes the discussions in the Forum extremely interesting. Across the whole of Latin America there is political, social and economic ferment: Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela are just some of the most striking examples. The election victory of Gutierrez, a Left populist, in Bolivia, and not least, the victory of Lula of the PT (Workers’ Party) in Brazil will pose new issues that will be reflected at the Forum. For the Left it is important to see that the struggle must continue after these elections.
There is a debate about the fact that Lula is participating in both the WSF and World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. The holding of the WSF event in 2001 was actually in protest against the WEF. Despite this, a part of the Left within PT does not think Lula’s actions are a problem, as Lula will deliver the same speech in both places, they argue. Lula says he is going to "take the message from Porto Alegre to Davos". But we think that the task is not to convince the elite, but to defeat it and bring it down. This entails the Left adopting an independent class position.
At the first WSF there was a debate by satellite link between participants at the WSF and WEF. It was then clear that Porto Alegre was an alternative to Davos. "You are responsible for the oppression", said Hebe de Bonafine from the ’Mothers of Plaza del Mayo’.
Today the idea of ’building a bridge’ between the two Forums has been raised in some quarters. At the WSF last year there was representatives from Jospin’s government in France, which was ’socialist’ in name but pro-capitalist in practice, and even the right wing French president, Chirac, attended. The task of socialists is to show that such a "bridge" is impossible. There cannot be any compromise between the exploiters and the exploited.
The way forward for the anti-capitalist movement
Another important task for socialists during the forthcoming WSF is to join in the discussions on the political situation and the way forward for the anti-capitalist movement. We call for a socialist programme that can build unity in struggle between workers and youth throughout the world. Amongst the 100,000 that will participate at the Forum there will be a chance to strengthen a class conscious Left, and to build a pole of attraction for the Left.
We have also concrete proposals for the struggle. Together with MSE (Movement for those without Education, International Socialist Resistance’s (ISR) section in Brazil) we want to discuss how to build the anti-war movement, using examples like the strikes in schools and universities that have been organised in a number of countries for ’Day X’ (the first day of a war on Iraq).
A specific problem facing young people in Brazil is that of access to higher education. We will therefore propose a special Forum for those who want to fight against privatisations and for democratic access to the universities. Last year, we succeeded in spreading the call through the WSF for the ISR’s international day of action on 15 March.
There is an educational apartheid in this country. The universities are only accessible for an small elite. The majority of higher education is now private, with high fees and doubtful educational quality. We are campaigning for occupations to protest against this situation once the universities open in March. In São Paulo we are fighting for a new campus of USP (São Paulos university) to be built in Zona Leste, a working class area.
In Campinas we have already succeeded in getting organized activities started, along with several student organisations and the local MST (the national landless movement in Brazil). They are preparing an occupation. The MST have used occupations very successfully to get widespread publicity and to further the land struggle. In November 2002, the MST held its first meeting for "youth in town and countryside" and was able to attract 1,500. The meeting endorsed the idea of occupations of the universities.
We expect a huge attendance at the WSF over the next few days. By adopting a socialist programme and concrete steps to resist war and capitalism, the WSF can become a vital launch pad for international struggles.