Over 100,000 workers, youth and others exploited by capitalism are expected to attend the 2005 World Social Forum (WSF) in Porte Allegre, Brazil between 26-31 January.
Most of those attending will be from Latin America. They will be participating in this event looking for a clear alternative to the horrors and misery that dominate world capitalism today.
The catastrophe of the Asian tsunami has revealed the anarchy, corruption and cynicism of the ruling capitalist classes and major imperialist powers. This human disaster has revealed the true class divisions and unprecedented gap which exists between rich and poor worldwide.
The ruling classes in all the continents are now preparing for an ’economic tsunami’ which will mean even further attacks on the living standards and social conditions for the working class and poor of the world. People are also having to face the consequences of environmental decay and global warming, the product of a chaotic capitalist system.
The WSF also meets after a particularly bloody and violent year internationally as the Iraqi quagmire deepens, bringing with it further misery and violence for Iraqis.
Latin American workers, peasants and youth have been in revolt against neo-liberalism and capitalism. In recent years the class struggle has been sharper in Latin America than in most other areas of the world. In many countries the old traditional right-wing capitalist parties have been swept from power.
In Uruguay, the ’left-wing’ Frente Amplio has taken office for the first time. Two years ago Lula in Brazil won the Presidency for the PT (Workers Party) for the first time. These and other election victories initially raised the hopes and expectations of the masses who viewed them as offering the prospect of a change in society.
However, the lesson is clear from the experience of these new ’radical’ governments. They have all remained within the capitalist system. They have consequently carried out capitalist policies against the working class.
In doing so, these governments have provoked struggles by the masses. Peru’s president Toledo, (whose popularity has slumped to less than 6%) admitted: "There is a divorce between the counsel we receive from Wall Street and the reality of Main Street, that is to say the streets of Quito, Caracas or Lima. We receive applause from Wall Street and face protests on our main streets at home."
The experience of Lula’s government in Brazil is an answer to those in the leadership of the WSF and others who argue that it is possible to reform capitalism and build a more humane capitalist society.
Lula’s government has buckled to all the demands of imperialism and its financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank. Far from being a reformist government it has become a government of counter-reforms. The pension reform programme, trade union and labour reform, university reform, the privatisation of federal banks and other measures, all have attacked the working class and poor.
In some of the biggest cities the PT was punished for these anti-working class policies in the municipal elections in 2004. In Rio de Janeiro, after winning 80% of the vote in the second round of the Presidential election in 2002, the vote for the PT mayoral candidate received a derisory 6% in 2004 – the lowest vote ever for the PT in the city! In Sao Paulo the PT candidate Marta Suplicy was defeated by Lula’s opponent in the 2002 Presidential campaign, Jose Serra.
Building an alternative
Developments in Brazil show both the consequences of remaining within the capitalist system but also are showing in practice what is needed to begin to build an alternative to capitalism.
One of the most positive developments in Brazil since the last WSF was organised in Porte Allegre two years ago is the launching of a new socialist party – PSOL – which was formed as a result of the right-wing turn to pro-capitalist policies by the PT leadership and the expulsion of some PT deputies who opposed Lula’s neo-liberal policies.
PSOL is committed to fighting for socialism and is organised on a democratic basis which allows all political groupings and tendencies to organise to openly defend their political ideas.
This formation is a positive answer to those leaders in the WSF who argue against the need to organise any political party.
The corrupt, undemocratic parties which embrace capitalism can offer nothing to workers and the poor. However, a democratically run party which fights for socialism and defends the interests of the poor and oppressed is an essential weapon for the working class to challenge and overthrow capitalism.
PSOL is already showing 3%-5% support in the polls for the next presidential elections which is significant at this early stage in building this new party. However, an important debate is taking place in PSOL about the emphasis it should put on its election work.
The CWI supports participating in elections in Brazil but the new party will not be built by this strategy alone. It must also actively intervene in the struggles of the masses at all levels to strengthen and build its support. The struggle to build a new party and defeat capitalism will not be won by trying to build the party as primarily an electoral force.
The WSF is meeting at a crucial time in the struggle against capitalism and imperialism. The CWI will be participating and arguing for the need to build an international socialist alternative to combat capitalism and imperialism. The CWI web page will carry up to date regular reports from our members participating at the WSF in Porte Allegre.