[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Long live WSF long live: Eric Toussaint
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Tue Mar 3 21:14:32 GMT 2009
(Sobering on left government powerlessness. Inspiring on soc.mvt. power
March 3, 2009
An Interview with Eric Toussaint
A New Start for the World Social Forum?
By PAULINE IMBACH
Eric Toussaint is president of the Committee for the Cancellation of
Third World Debt and author of The World Bank: A Critical Primer, Pluto,
Some talked about a new start for the movement for another kind of
globalization with the World Social Forum in Belém. Do you think this is
Since the World Social Forum (WSF) went through difficult moments in
2006, 2007, and 2008, we can really call this 9th edition a new start.
It was a huge success in various respects.
First it drew a considerable participation, with 133,000, possibly
140,000, registered participants. This is remarkable and makes the Belém
WSF one of the most popular. It is comparable to Mumbai’s in January
2004 or to the one organized in Porto Alegre in 2005. Indeed we have to
keep in mind that Belém is off the beaten track compared with major
Brazilian cities such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, or
Porto Alegre but also for a number of South American countries. Belém is
difficult to get to: air fares are expensive and it takes three days by
bus from Sao Paulo, five from Porto Alegre, and six from Buenos Aires,
Montevideo or Asunción. Mumbai was much more accessible for Indians and
Porto Alegre for Brazilians, Argentinians, Uruguayans, and Paraguayans.
Moreover a large majority of participants were under 30. All those young
people massively attended the various events.
Another element that contributed to the Forum being a success is the
visible and active presence of indigenous peoples, mainly from the
Amazon and the Andes.
What is also indicative of a new start is that most participants were
keen to find in-depth explanations for the various aspects of the
current crisis and to draw their own conclusions, while eager to act and
This is an obvious change compared with the Nairobi WSF in 2007, where
the movement seemed to be running out of steam and unable to raise
This turns this Forum into the first major international mobilization
against the crisis of capitalism that started in 2007.
This new start for the WSF and the alter-globalization movement is in
stark contrast with the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos mourning
capitalism. President Lula, who had in former years spent one day at the
WSF before flying to the WEF, decided that this time he would only be
seen at the WSF and would not go to Davos. This is most significant
since it illustrates the depth of the crisis. Lula understood that his
social liberal management, which already leads to a lot of questioning
from the grassroots, would be even more negatively perceived if he went
to Davos. To clip the wings of any criticism on his left he chose to
stay in Brazil. Similarly no other Latin American left-wing or
centre-left president went to the Swiss ski resort, though several of
them were invited. The economic Forum was a sorry spectacle since no
significant representative of the Obama administration had bothered to
go. Only Vladimir Putin, the Chinese Prime minister (which says a lot!),
and Angela Merckel were there to discuss the survival of capitalism.
Nicolas Sarkozy himself had decided against going to Davos. If Lula had
gone, or if Obama had sent a high-ranking official Sarkozy would surely
have been there!
We must also emphasize the media bias. One of the world’s leading
financial dailies, the Financial Times, did not print one line about the
WSF in Belém while it devoted two special issues to Davos and had over
ten pages coverage in its regular issue. By contrast a number of
newspapers, TV and radio channels had sent special correspondents (there
were about 3,000 journalists) who reported on the event. Some rightly
stress the 'reawakening' or 'second wind’ of the alterglobalization
movement. All the daily papers in the State of Para ran five to eight
pages about the Forum every day. The international TV channel AlJazira
largely covered the event and gave CADTM delegates the opportunity to
speak (see the English video at http://www.cadtm.org/spip.php?article4012 ).
What were the major concerns at the WSF?
There were three main issues.
First the crisis of capitalism in its various dimensions, namely
financial, economic, climate, energy, food, migration and 'governance',
i.e. the obvious legitimacy crisis of the G8, the IMF, the World Bank,
and the WTO. The lack of legitimacy of alternative solutions such as the
G20 was also central.
Second, the crimes of the Israeli army against the Palestinian people.
The Palestinian issue, though Belém lies over 12,000 km away from
Palestine, was very much with us. From day one, with the opening march,
a 20 meter long Palestinian flag was unfolded and carried by young
people of ENLACE, a far-left current in the Brazilian PSOL party.
Several people carried tokens of solidarity with the Palestinian
struggle. Though participants had come with different concerns, they
insisted on showing their solidarity with the Palestinian people. With
this specific situation it was all the wars of aggression that were
targeted, such as the war on Iraq or on Afghanistan. All agreed on the
demand for withdrawal by the army of occupation.
A third priority issue was the struggle of indigenous peoples in
Amazonia and the Andes. The Forum's first day of work was entirely
dedicated to the Amazonian area (an area that extends beyond Brazil and
includes part of Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, and Colombia - not
forgetting Guyana, French Guiana and Surinam). The indigenous peoples
issue covered the relationship with nature and the part they play in
preserving it, as well as the assertion of their cultural identity and
the way they are affected by capitalist globalization. Indigenous people
have a lot to teach other peoples, especially with respect to their
approach to the world (this has already been partly integrated in the
new Constitutions voted in Ecuador in 2008 and in Bolivia in 2009). We
could only be impressed by the contribution of delegates of indigenous
peoples to the Forum's discussions and proposals. They played a major
part. They gave the Forum its particular touch as they focused
discussions on the issue of Amazonia and the Andes, and so placed the
challenge of climate change at the core of socialist and environmental
Next to these three central issues we discussed a number of significant
questions. For instance, thanks to the dynamic of the World March of
Women the feminist approach was more visible than in former editions.
Another essential theme: understanding the predatory role played by
transnational corporations not only in the North but also in the South.
Since we were in Belém, many actions were directed against the Brazilian
corporations such as Petrobras or Vale (mining industry). It was
essential for Brazilians, who made up some 90 % of the participants, to
become aware of their own responsibility as citizens in bringing an end
to the nefarious action of corporations located in their country on a
continental if not global scale.
What is the significance of the declaration by the Assembly of Social
This declaration has something radically new about it. We have to
remember that from the first Forum in January 2001 there has always been
an Assembly of Social Movements. Preparations for it go on from the
first day of the Forum and the Assembly meets on the last day. At the
end of the meeting a declaration is voted on. It has been drafted by
delegates from a whole range of social movements.
Up to now these declarations were merely a list of major issues as
perceived by social movements and a list of upcoming events. Social
movements and various campaigns presented major moments for their
The Belém declaration is different. It includes a fundamental diagnosis
of the crisis of the capitalist system and a clear position as to how to
move out of it. Its title and subtitle sum up this new approach: We
won't pay for the crisis! The rich have to pay for it! Anti-imperialist,
anti-capitalist, feminist, environmentalist and socialist alternatives
So this declaration is an agenda for alternatives. To be more specific,
it indicates that if we consider the interest of the oppressed, the
crisis of capitalism cannot be solved by merely restoring some
regulation mechanisms. The solution to the crisis involves a break away
from the capitalist system. In order to overcome the crisis we have to
grapple with the root of the problem and progress as fast as possible
towards the construction of a radical alternative that would do away
with the capitalist system and patriarchal domination.
Moreover the declaration conveys immediate demands: We must contribute
to the largest possible popular mobilization to enforce a number of
urgent measures such as nationalizing the banking sector without
compensation and with full social monitoring; reducing working time
without any wage cuts; taking measures to ensure food and energy
sovereignty; stopping wars, withdrawing occupation troops and
dismantling military foreign bases; acknowledging the peoples’
sovereignty and autonomy and ensuring their right to self-determination;
guaranteeing rights to land, territory, work, education and health for
all; democratizing access to means of communication and knowledge.
Finally this text proposes a global calendar, with special focus on the
week of global action from 28 March to 4 April 2009. This includes our
refusal to pay for the current crisis, our opposition to the G20 meeting
in London on 2 April 2009, solidarity with the Palestinian people on 30
March 2009, opposition to the commemoration of NATO's 60th anniversary
and our demand for its dissolution. This must indeed be a week of global
action since we agreed both on the dates and on the major themes.
Moreover the calendar includes the recurring dates for mobilisation:
Women's Day on the 8 March, Peasants' Day on the 17 April, Indigenous
Peoples' Day on 12 October (the day that Columbus landed on what
Europeans were to call the Americas in 1492).
Finally this calendar of events also includes major mobilizations on the
occasion of the G8 meeting on Madgalena Island in Sardegna in early July
2009, the UN Copenhagen summit on climate change in December 2009 and
the global week of action against the debt and International Financial
Institutions from 8 to 15 October 2009.
The groups that were most actively involved in the drafting of the
declaration of social movements were CADTM, which put forward a proposal
for collective drafting, the World March of Women (WMW), Via Campesina
(particularly its Brazilian branch the Movimento sin Terra), the
Organización continental latinoamericana y caribeña de estudiantes
(OCLAE), delegates from European, African, and Asian social movements,
and delegates from indigenous associations in Amazonia and the Andes.
Usually, during forums, the conclusions of the Assembly of Social
Movements (ASM) are made public on the last day. This year, since the
last day was dedicated to thematic assemblies and the Assembly of
Assemblies, on which more below, the Assembly of Social Movements took
place on 30 January, two days before the end of the Forum. On hearing
the conclusions of ASM, Joao Pedro Stedile, from MST, said such a
declaration was evidence of the ASM’s maturity in that it defines a
clear agenda. In this Forum the ASM still played a stirring part since
it defined issues in radical terms and reinforced a dynamic that had
been present all through the Forum, namely a search for global and
radical explanations and solutions.
If we read the declarations that most of the 11 thematic assemblies
adopted on 1 February morning, we notice that the crisis is repeatedly
analyzed as a crisis of capitalism. It is particularly striking when we
read the declaration of indigenous peoples, that of the anti-war
movements, or that adopted by the assembly of women. We are not
interested in palliative answers based on market logic in response to
these crises; this can only lead to a perpetuation of the same system.
We need to advance in the construction of alternatives [. . . so as to
confront] the capitalist and patriarchal system that oppresses and
The declaration of indigenous peoples uses similar terms to those found
in the ASM declaration to formulate demands for an antiracist,
antipatriarchal and socialist alternative that would respect the earth
mother. The crisis of the capitalist, eurocentric, patriarchal and
racist development model is complete and opens onto the biggest social
and environmental crisis in the history of humankind. The financial,
economic and energy crisis contributes to structural unemployment,
social exclusion, racist violence, machism, and religious fanaticism. So
many deep and simultaneous crises spell out a genuine crisis in Western
civilisation, the crisis of the ‘capitalist development and modernity’
that jeopardizes all forms of life. Yet even in such a quandary some
still dream of improving this model and will not recognize that the
present crisis is a product of capitalism itself, on eurocentrism with
its model of a State for one nationality, of cultural homogeneity, of
Western positive law, and of commodification of life.
While some social movements or campaigns (particularly European ones)
are still hesitant if not reluctant to mention socialist alternatives,
the assembly of indigenous peoples is quite explicit about it. And it
has to be stressed that the two texts were drafted by different people
at different venues of the Forum, even though the ASM declaration was
discussed in a general assembly of delegates of all represented
movements, including of course those of indigenous peoples (who were
massively present at the ASM).
In the drafting committee we had debated how we could indicate the
contribution of indigenous organizations to the struggle against
capitalist globalization. A first draft mentioned the indigenous
movements ‘reappearing’ over the past 15 years, which I hardly found
satisfactory. And as soon as the text was read in the general assembly,
several delegates of indigenous movements demanded that the text be
changed and mention a ‘new encounter’ between indigenous and social
movements over the past years. The indigenous peoples rightly observed
that they had not waited for other social movements to find out about
them before starting their own struggle. They have been resisting
capitalism and various forms of domination imposed on them for five
centuries. The assembly considered they were right and the text was
What can be said about the presence of political parties and certain
governments at the WSF?
The participation of political parties is a new development, since
political parties were not much in evidence at the previous Forums in
Brazil and Africa. They were not much in evidence either at the WSF in
Mumbai, India in January 2004 or at certain regional or continental
Forums, in particular those in Karachi, Caracas, or Athens in 2006.
First of all, it should be said that the left-wing Brazilian parties
(the PT, PSOL and PSTU) were particularly present in the Forum program
itself but that their participation varied in nature. For the PT, it was
more a matter of Lula’s government and administration being present
(several ministers attended) than of PT participation as such. On the
other hand, the PSOL and PSTU, both of them opposition parties, were
active in supporting the interests of trade unions they are close to,
especially ConLutas and Inter Syndical.
The presence of political parties within the Forum precincts seems to me
vital, since the Forum should be a platform for debate between political
parties, social movements, citizen organizations and grass roots
movements. It would be perfectly logical if, at each edition of the
Social Forum, the political parties linked to the Forum process were
present. It is time to end the “ghetto-ization” of the social movements,
NGOs and citizen movements, as if they were incapable of debating, let
alone actively collaborating, with political organizations that are
willing to fight against capitalist globalization.
Note that for the first time, four presidents were there together: Evo
Morales (Bolivia), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Fernando Lugo (Paraguay) and
Hugo Chavez (Venezuela). They represent the aspirations of the global
justice movement in general and Latin-American social movements in
particular. We should recall that in 2005 there were two meetings of
Latin-American presidents during the WSF - the first attended by Hugo
Chavez, and later, a second by president Lula. In addition, on the
occasion of the 2006 polycentric forum in Caracas, Hugo Chavez took part
in another big public meeting.
What was new at Belém was that for the first time, four presidents were
addressed by social movements. It is very important that social
movements confront presidents with a number of realities and try to get
them to commit to measures for implementing an alternative model and
regional integration in Latin America – an integration that is genuinely
favourable to the people, respectful of nature and not subordinated to
the interests of capitalist transnational corporations. It should also
be emphasized that the four presidents had been invited by social
movements, specifically on the initiative of the MST (Landless Rural
Workers’ Movement), La Via Campesina and the WMW (World March of Women),
all of which had decided to exclude Lula, given the content of his
anti-social policy (the local press made much of this exclusion).
Lula’s political stance is close to the liberal social model of Gordon
Brown in England, or of Zapatero in Spain. It mainly favours the big
capitalist Brazilian companies established throughout Latin America, the
powerful Brazilian agribusiness sector, the private banking system, and
the big transnational corporations located in Brazil. It is a policy
that promotes exports as fundamental to development, in particular the
sugar cane industry with a view to producing ethanol, and transgenic soy
exports. In ecological terms, however, the consequences for the last
five years have been catastrophic. Since 2003, Lula’s policies have
engendered deforestation in Amazonia over an area equal to that of
During the WSF, the Lula government’s aim was to regain some legitimacy
with a left-wing sector and with politically committed young people
opposed to Lula’s neo-liberal policies. While the message of the Lula
government was geared to be anti-neoliberal, the participants themselves
were a move ahead, placing responsibility for the global crisis squarely
on the capitalist system.
1,000 social movement delegates were present at this meeting attended by
four presidents. Many more WSF participants would have liked to be there
but it was necessary to proceed by delegation. The session began with a
political address by Camille Chalmers, secretary general of PAPDA
(Platform to Advocate Alternative Development) in Haiti, who is a member
of Jubilee South, CADTM and COMPAS (a Caribbean alliance of social
movements). He stressed the positive nature of the audit initiative of
the Correa government in Ecuador and the partial suspension of
commercial debt repayments. He then addressed Hugo Chavez and Evo
Morales on setting up debt audits in their respective countries and
reminded them that they had undertaken to do this after the Alba
meeting, in the presence of Rafael Correa, at the end of November 2008
in Caracas. Before the presidents took the floor, two feminists also
spoke: Magdalena Leon of REMTE and Nalu Faria of the WMW .
The first president to speak was Rafael Correa. His arrival at the Forum
had been a subject of controversy. The day before he came, the
Confederation of Indian Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) sent a message
to the WSF asking that Correa be declared persona non grata in view of
his policy regarding foreign investment in the country’s extractive
industries, which directly affect the indigenous populations. In
response to this radical challenge, in his speech Rafael Correa adopted
a very left-leaning discourse on 21st century socialism. While his
speech might be seen as altogether positive, placed in its context it
appears to be a way of regaining a legitimacy that has been damaged by
the type of capitalist, productivist, national model he is installing in
his country. In addition, he made no mention of the debt issue, whereas
in his introduction Camille Chalmers had stressed the positive nature of
the debt audit and Ecuador’s partial suspension of repayments since
Fernando Lugo then made a speech in which he stressed that it is
absolutely vital for Brazil to acknowledge that the application of the
Itaipu treaty is causing a terrible and unfair debt burden for Paraguay.
The binational company Itaipu has a total debt of US$ 20 billion, half
of this sum to be repaid by Paraguay and the other half by Brazil.
Almost 95% of these debts are owed to Brazilian companies. Lugo
explained that he expected Brazil to adopt a friendly and honourable
stance by acknowledging the one-sided nature of this treaty. The
Paraguayan authorities and people want the debt held against them to be
radically reduced. They want to be able to increase the price of the
electricity they supply to Brazil and sell electricity to other
countries in the region, so as to increase the State’s revenues and thus
be in a position to start the social reforms for which Lugo was elected
in April 2008.
Lugo also intends to set up a commission for an international audit of
the Itaipu treaty. He has decided that negotiations with Lula on the
Itaipu treaty will be public, though the Lula government wants them to
be confidential and on a diplomatic basis.
Evo Morales was the next to speak. His speech was interesting in that he
positioned himself as being part of the social movements. He affirmed
that none of the presidents here today would be president if there had
not been profound social struggles and if social movements had not
frequently overthrown presidents favouring neo-liberal policies. He told
the social movements they should not hesitate to summon the presidents
regularly so that they would be obliged to make reports. Evo Morales
alluded to the situation of his country after the adoption by referendum
of the new constitution on 27 January 2009 (that is, on the first day of
the WSF), which is a major step forward for Bolivia.
Finally, he explained the entirely counter-revolutionary role of the
Bolivian catholic hierarchy: playing on the WSF slogan, he exclaimed
“another Church is possible”. In this way he was addressing his
colleague Fernando Lugo, a former Catholic bishop and liberation
theologist, and, in the audience, François Houtart who is also a
liberation theologist, working for the Church of the poor.
Chavez, in his turn, insisted on the anti-capitalist and socialist
option and added a feminist dimension by declaring that he had become a
After these speeches, João Pedro Stedile, president of MST, gave a
closing address that was very exemplary in manner. Instead of
congratulating the presidents, he said that the time they had lost and
the fact that they had proven unable, in the face of the crisis, to
adopt measures for the benefit of the people, were regrettable. In this
way he was criticizing all the Latin-American presidents who met in
Salvador de Bahia in December. Addressing the four presidents before
him, he declared that in the absence of a joint response from all the
presidents, the social movements expect the four left-wing presidents to
take fundamental, stuctural measures without delay to respond to the
capitalist crisis. In addition, he suggested they did not wait to be
summoned by the social movements, but to regularly invite those
movements to come to them and then listen to what they have to say.
This meeting was an important event within the WSF, and a step forward
in the dialogue between social movements and governments. This type of
exchange could only happen in Latin America, in the sense that several
left-wing governments have emerged from radical social struggles linked
to the WSF dynamic: before being elected president in April 2008,
Fernando Lugo had attended the WSF of Porto Alegre in 2005 as a
Paraguayan delegate, travelling there by bus from Asunción.
At the end of this day, president Lula called another meeting at another
venue in Belém – more a presentation of his politics than anything else.
He invited H. Chavez, R. Correa, E. Morales and F. Lugo, all of whom
also spoke. This meeting took place in a very different context. There
was no question of dialogue with social movements or of listening to
eventual criticism of his policies or those of the other presidents.
Can we note a switch to the left among some Latin American governments?
Is there any progress in terms of regional integration?
We cannot really say the four governments invited to the WSF are moving
to the left. In Venezuela, a series of positive measures have been taken
in 2008 in term of nationalizations, such as the nationalization of the
big steel company Sidor after an extended social conflict, or the
nationalization of the Bank of Venezuela which belonged to one of the
two largest Spanish private banking groups. It is quite hard to assess
Lugo’s work since he has only been in office since August 2008, i.e. for
less than six months. To be able to form an opinion, it is necessary to
leave him more time. Nevertheless, what can be said is that, in view of
the crisis that begins to directly affect the Latin American economies
and populations, the four governments have not managed to implement a
concerted alternative policy.
A source of inspiration should be the proposals drawn from the
conference that was convened by the Venezuelan authorities in October
2008, “Responses from the South to the global economic crisis”. This
conference resulted in a declaration which included a series of very
concrete proposals that, unfortunately, have not been followed by
decisions up to now. As far as integration is concerned, it must be
noted that the Bank of the South, which has officially existed since
December 2007, has not yet started business. It is clearly in a stalemate.
After these very important critical observations, some positive elements
deserve to be highlighted. First, in December 2008 Salvador do Bahia
hosted a meeting of all Latin American presidents which marked Cuba’s
return to the common Latin American scene. On this occasion, the Mexican
president Felipe Calderon (right wing government) and Raul Castro (from
Cuba) met without the US government being invited to this summit. And
yet, since the 1959 Cuban revolution, the US had managed to
diplomatically isolate Cuba to such an extent that the main meetings on
the continental scale were those of the Organization of American States
(OAS), which consists of the states of North and Latin America,
excepting Cuba. Now Latin American states, including right wing
governments, are forming a coalition without Washington, so as to
resolve by themselves some regional problems, such as the conflict that
broke out on 1 March 2008 after the Colombian army intervened on
Ecuadorian territory. It is positive.
The other positive element regarding the integration process is the
continuing enlargement of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the
Americas). At the beginning, it included Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. In
2008, it extended to include Honduras and the island of Dominica. For
some months we have noted Ecuador’s cautious rapprochement.
What went on about the debt issue?
Several talks dealt with the debt topic. The most attended one gathered
some 500 people and was about debt auditing in Latin America and the
Brazilian Congress setting up a Parliamentary Investigation Commission.
The CADTM and Jubilee South were the most represented networks in the
WSF. Latindadd, Eurodad and Afrodad were also present. As mentioned in
the final declaration of the debt campaigns, a new international crisis
of the public debt is in the making.
Was there anything new about the organization of the Forum?
Yes. The Assembly of Assemblies, which followed the self-managed
thematic assemblies, is an important innovation. From the first, WSF
social movements have established the tradition of a final unifying
assembly, convened alongside the official programme of the Forum. For
several years, a series of constituent parts of the Forum have been
asking for the Forum itself to actively and consciously promote
convergences among participating organizations, so as to bring forth
common alternatives, common actions and proposals. There was some
resistance within the International Council (IC), but this year is a
turning point and marks an advance for the WSF with the convening of the
Assembly of Assemblies.
On the first day (27 January) the Forum started with a big opening march
in the streets. On the second day all activities focused on the Amazon
region, which highlighted the contribution of indigenous peoples. This
pan-Amazon day was followed by two days in which all topics could be
dealt with in self-managed activities. And finally, on the morning of
the last day (1 February), self-managed thematic assemblies were held,
followed in the afternoon by an Assembly of Assemblies where the
conclusions of each thematic assembly were presented as well as the
final declaration of the Assembly of Social Movements – ASM – (which
took place on 30 January). It was obviously an extremely positive choice.
This being said, it has to be qualified: the IC and the local organizing
committee did not put enough energy in coordinating the self-managed
activities of the third and fourth days. This resulted in too much
dispersion since almost 2,000 activities were organized. In the 4 to 6
months before the Forum a group of volonteers and permanent staff should
have been in touch with all the organizations registering activities so
as to group and merge them. It would have avoided many duplications. In
this respect the CADTM made a special effort since all its activities
were co-organized with others. The CADTM did not organize any activity
on its own. As far as responses to the crisis are concerned, the CADTM
was involved in two initiatives that gathered tens of different
organizations . Similarly activities on the debt issue were held with
Jubilee South, Latindadd, and national campaigns active on the issue,
especially in Brazil.
Another weak point: the Assembly of Assemblies was held in unfavourable
material conditions. It was held outdoors, without any translation
system. Participants could not ask questions to people reading the
conclusions reached by the various thematic assemblies. For the next
editions an indoor venue and a translation system will be needed to make
a real exchange on the conclusions possible.
Compared with the edition held in Nairobi in January 2007, was the Forum
more accessible to the more oppressed people? Did the local population
actively take part in the Forum?
The Forum was very well attended by people of the region. About 100,000
people from the state of Para, the capital of which is Belem, were
present. The entry fee for Brazilians amounted to 30 reals, that is 10
euros, the price of 8 to 10 meals in a popular canteen. It was thus a
high price to pay for the sector of the population that devotes 80 per
cent of its income to mere survival. The entrance fee should have been
even lower so as to prompt larger participation.
Another questionable aspect, for which the organizing committee is not
responsible, but which is the result of the federal government’s and the
state of Para’s policies, is the discrimination against the poorest
neighbourhoods of the city. 200 antiriot police were stationed in the
two poorest neighbourhoods and the authorities imposed the Ley Seca, a
law that prohibits selling alcohol in the evening. It is thus an obvious
discriminatory policy against the “dangerous classes”, to use a 19th
century expression. In the rest of the city, the police presence was
very discreet and alcohol could be sold at any time of the day and night.
It must also be said that people living in flimsy houses around the
university where the Forum took place were evicted right before the
Forum so as to “clean up” the place.
During the International Council, the CADTM raised the question of the
entrance fee with the organizing committee and criticized the State
authorities’ attitude regarding poor populations. The members of the
organizing committee said they were deeply concerned by this kind of
To conclude, the WSF should be fully open to the local populations
without any financial barrier. The organization of a Forum should not be
accompanied by security measures in which the police target the lower
classes, while these ought to be the central actors of change in a
process like the WSF and alterglobalism.
What are the developments within the International Council (IC)?
A positive evolution has been noted within the IC around this WSF. On
the one hand, before the Forum, given the strategic choice of convening
an Assembly of Assemblies, and on the other hand, after the WSF, during
the two-day IC meeting. The Forum’s success resulted in the
dispassionate climate of IC debates and proposals. The meeting included
a strategic discussion introduced by a document presented by Gus
Massiah. Without any vote being held on the subject, the IC was visibly
willing to make the action plans succeed, and especially the global week
of action that was agreed on during the ASM. Whereas in past editions
some constituent parts, including some founding members of the Forum,
were opposed to organizing large demonstrations as part of the Forum,
especially the ones organized against the war in 2003 and 2004, on this
occasion, they approved the agenda of actions. It is clear that the
global crisis of capitalism has changed things. Everyone is now faced
with the need to act.
This raises several questions: does it reflect the IC’s response
capacity, which was slumbering and reluctant to push for action? Will
the change observed after the Belém Forum be lasting or temporary?
It is important for the organizations that can actively spur the IC in
the good direction to assume their responsibilities. In this regard, the
CADTM firmly intends to assume its responsibilities together with other
organizations willing to improve the IC’s functioning, so that the IC
contributes to facing the challenges of the global capitalist crisis.
Moreover, a proposal that must be supported was launched during the IC,
i.e. holding a meeting in Gaza in 2010, with attendant public activities
designed for hundreds of participants. This project has to be made
reality in the first half of 2010 to support the Palestinian people’s
Does the social movements’ action plan stand a chance to succeed?
For the ASM’s call to be successful all the organizations that
participated in the Forum or support this call must organize it all, so
that in their respective country or region, this call results in
mobilization. There are other events we have to participate in. Surely
some current or recent struggles (in Greece, in France, in Guadaloupe
and Martinique …) can help this agenda to succeed. Workers and unions
affected by the large layoff plans in entire economic sectors must get
Translated by Judith Harris, Stéphanie Jacquemont and Christine Pagnoulle.
Original text in Spanish: http://www.cadtm.org/spip.php?article4133
Read: Ignacio Ramonet, La vraie gauche et les mouvements sociaux.
See the full declaration http://www.cadtm.org/spip.php?article3802
See the final declaration of the debt campaigns which was read by
Camille Chalmers (member of CADTM and Jubilee South) during the Assembly
of Assemblies http://www.cadtm.org/spip.php?article4128
The CADTM delegation to the WSF was composed of nearly thirty delegates
from 14 countries (Argentina, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Democratic
Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, France, Haiti, India, Ivory Coast,
Japan, Marocco, Pakistan, Togo. The delegates from Colombia, Venezuela
and Tunisia were not able to arrive in Belem).
One of these initiatives led to the declaration “Let’s put finance in
its place!” http://www.cadtm.org/spip.php?article4120
See the complete document, entitled “The dangers and opportunities of
the global crisis” http://www.cadtm.org/spip.php?article4099
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