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World Social Forum: For A Socialist Alternative
AS REPRESENTATIVES of global capitalism assembled for their annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, last week an alternative 100,000-strong World Social Forum (WSF) gathered in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Although overshadodowed in the media this year by the impending US war on Iraq, the third WSF brought together, trade unionists, environmentalists, anti-capitalists of various political hues, worldwide. CWI members put forward a socialist alternative to capitalism.
Andre Ferrari, CWI, Brazil (Socialismo Revolucionario), and Marcus Kollbrunner Swedish CWI (Rattvisepartiet Socialisterna), sent an initial report from the WSF.
"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.
The advantage with the WSF 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 have illusions that you can create a 'human' capitalism, free from 'neo-liberalism', through reforming the system. One of the tasks for the Left is to intervene in the discussions and show that the whole system must be abolished, not just the worst features.
There is a debate over Lula's participation in both the WSF and the World Economic Forum. 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.
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.
Also, we have concrete proposals for the struggle. Together with MSE (Movement for those without Education, the International Socialist Resistance (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)."
Lula's anti-poverty call misses the target
"OLE, OLE, ole, Lula... Lula..." chanted a vast crowd that engulfed the Sunset park in Porto Alegre Friday afternoon. 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. There, opposition to the war in Iraq and Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, and support for Venezuelan people against the right wing campaign to topple Hugo Chavez were big themes.
Lula had a very emotional speech, promising not "to fail" the poor but on the other hand trying to moderate the huge expectations that are there. He's not intending to break with capitalism and instead is trying to prepare the activists that he will not be able to deliver on all promises.
Nonetheless, his victory has created enormous expectations. Everywhere he goes he's met by huge crowds. 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. Most people here are socialists of different kinds. You can see it in all the red flags and in the positive response to our paper. Lula has a huge authority but he will not be able to hold back all the struggle in society.
"He's talking a lot of food for poor people and university for all, but you can't combine that with paying huge amounts of money for the state debt to the banks," says Celia R da Silva, a student from Bauru in Sao Paulo state.
In The Socialist 31 January 2003: