Brazil: Lula addresses enormous crowds at World Social Forum

"Ole, ole, ole, Lula… Lula… Lula", chanted a vast crowd that engulfed the Sunset Park in Porto Alegre on Friday afternoon, last week.


To great acclaim, the recently elected president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Lula), spoke to hundreds of thousands of activists attending the World Social Forum (WSF), last Friday. Lula, standing on a PT (Workers’ Party) ticket, was elected by a massive popular mandate last year. This marked a historical breakthrough for the working class and was welcomed by socialists everywhere.

Working people and the poor in Brazil have huge expectations that Lula can deliver real change to their lives. However, Lula also wants to placate international big business. He has indicated he thinks he can do the impossible and please two implacably opposing classes at once. In fact, Lula claims to have used the same speech at both the WSF and at the meeting of bankers and industrialists at the World Forum in Davos on Sunday 26 January!

According to the London Financial Times (27/01/03), "[Lula] won a warm reception from business people and bankers at the World Economic Forum for a speech that mixed praise for free markets and trade with vows to attack poverty and hunger."

Marcus Kollbrunner, a Swedish CWI member attending the WSF, reports on the massive Lula rally and the response of socialists to his remarks.

CWI Online

Lula addresses enormous crowds at World Social Forum

Lula’s speech was undoubtedly the most anticipated event in the World Social Forum this year. The crowd was even bigger than the 140,000 that participated in the opening march of the WSF, also last week.

Lula made a very emotional speech, promising not "to fail", but, on the other hand, trying to moderate the huge expectations there are in his rule.

"Running a government is like running a marathon. You can’t rush…[otherwise] you’ll and up panting in the first street corner", he said. [Underlining this position he later told the bosses’ representatives at Davos, "I have four years to proceed calmly and cautiously". CWI Online].

Lula is trying to prepare the activists for the fact that he will not be able to deliver on all promises. He is not intending to break with capitalism, says Eliana Oliveira, from Socialismo Revolucionario, the CWI in Brazil.

His huge election victory last year has created enormous expectations. Everywhere he goes huge crowds meet Lula. The tremendous support for him is at the same time making him worried. He will have difficulties in explaining that big changes will not be possible. Many people at the Social Forum are socialists of different kinds. You can see it in all the red flags here, and in the response to the Socialismo Revolucionario paper.

Lula has huge authority but he will not be able to hold back all the struggles in society.

Lula’s speeches can be very sensationalist. He talks about providing food for poor people and university education for all, but you cannot combine that with paying huge amounts of money from the state to service debts to the banks, commented Celia R da Silva, a student from Bauru, in So Paulo state.

It is estimated that 5,500 organisations are taking part in the WSF. The march included an estimated 140,000 people. The opening march last Thursday was very colourful, and included many different kinds of organisations.

Opposition to the war in Iraq and FTAA, and support for the Venezuelan people against the right wing organised ’strike’ to topple the Left populist Chavez, were big themes.

CWI comrades from Brazil, Chile, Germany and Sweden sold 333 papers during the first day of the event.

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