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World Social Forum
"A different world, a socialist one, is possible"
PORTO ALEGRE, state capital of Rio Grande do Sul, was the venue for the first World Social Forum from 25-30 January. There were nearly 5,000 delegates from 117 countries registered (mostly from Brazil). In addition, thousands more took part in debates and activities. ANDRE FERRARI of Socialismo Revulicionario (SR - CWI, Brazil) reports.
THE World Social Forum in Porto Alegre aimed to oppose the capitalists' World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, held on the same dates.
The organisers at Porto Alegre rejected the neo-liberalism of the Davos forum and raised the slogan of "a different world is possible".
Most of the organisers thought that while many anti-globalisation demos simply rejected the current order in a negative way, Porto Alegre should pose an alternative.
For many at the Forum this alternative consisted of 'humanising globalisation', 'democratising the international institutions of capitalism' and defending immediate cosmetic measures that do not question the fundamental logic of the capitalist order.
The extreme statement of this position was the intervention by French government ministers who argued that Porto Alegre was not in opposition to Davos but, rather, a complement to it.
They think that austerity measures really are required but there has to be 'concern' with the social effects of those policies.
The Workers Party (PT) city government in Porto Alegre and in the state of Rio Grande do Sul was also put forward as an example of an alternative to neo-liberal policies.
Although undoubtedly a step forward in comparison with any capitalist parties in government, the PT governments here have, under pressure, continued to pay foreign debt and carry through the fiscal adjustment imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and assisted by president Cardoso of the federal government.
The 'spirit of Seattle'
NEVERTHELESS, THE 'anti-capitalist spirit' of Seattle, Washington, Melbourne, Plague and Nice was present all the time in the Forum and often surfaced against the will of many of the main bodies that co-ordinated it.
Porto Alegre was the scene of innumerable calls for condemnations of the US's 'Plan Colombia', solidarity with Palestinian masses, struggle against the foreign debt, protest against the arrest of demonstrators in Davos and, of course, a strong condemnation of the policies of the IMF and the World Bank.
Besides the debates, there were big demos during the five days. More than 15,000 took part in the "March against neo-liberalism and for life" on the first day of the Forum.
During the Forum, the Landless Movement (MST) organised an action to destroy a field of GM soybeans owned by multinational Monsanto. GM plants and the American flag were burned by MST activists.
The leader of the Small Farmers Confederation of France, Josˇ Bovˇ, took part in the action and was brutally arrested by Federal Police a few days later and issued with an order to leave the country. Demos of protest and solidarity with Bovˇ marked the last day of the Forum.
Another highlight at the Forum was the live teleconference debate between Davos and Porto Alegre. Hebe de Bonafini, of the Argentinean Mothers (of victims of the military regime) called the Davos spokesmen murderers while financiers such as Soros and others reaffirmed their 'good intentions'.
THE INTERCONTINENTAL Youth Camp was the left-wing and socialist side of the Forum. More than 2,000 camped and held discussions, demos, artistic and cultural activities, etc.
The youth took to the streets against Plan Colombia [US military intervention in Colombia] and diverted the march on the first day to protest at McDonald's, against the will of the leaders.
The merciless sun by day and mud and rain around the tents by night at the youth camp contrasted with the deluxe dinners in honour of Danielle Mitterrand (wife of the late French president) held in traditional establishment clubs.
At the end of the Forum, the youth camp agreed a manifesto. Under the title A different world, a socialist one, is possible, the manifesto emphasizes that "A global alternative to commodity production has to be posed. This means building a new world, a socialist world".
In April, there will be demos in Argentina and Canada against governments meeting to discuss the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas).
In July, the youth will join in the International Movement for the Annulment of Foreign Debt for Third World Countries and in September, will protest during the World Bank and IMF meetings.
The final youth mass meeting also voted unanimously for solidarity and protest posed by members of SR, against attacks on student activists in Nigeria, among them members of Democratic Socialist Movement, the CWI section there.
At the end of the Forum no global alternative was presented. A Letter of Principles will be drawn up by April 2001 by the organising committee on the basis of the discussions.
SR 's intervention
BESIDES CONSTANTLY defending socialism as the alternative to neo-liberalism and imperialist globalisation, the high point of SR members' intervention at the Forum was presenting the Movement of the Education-less (MSE) to youth from other areas. (MSE is a youth and student movement that fights for the democratisation of access to public universities and in defence of public education.)
SR members met activists from several states around Brazil and other countries.
The idea of an occupation at the USP (University of S‹o Paulo) with students excluded from university attending classes attracted many people.
In The Socialist 23 February 2001: