THE SOCIAL MOVEMENT NEEDS A STRATEGY
Conversion of Alternatives was Central at Porto Alegre
By Angela Klein
[This article originally published in: junge Welt, January 15, 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.jungewelt.de/2003/01-15/027.php.]
A conference with 100,000 participants is a rather inscrutable event, especially in formulating an alternative to the dominant neoliberal globalization. A bundling of positions is inevitable. The organizers see a convergence between the first and third World Social Forum (May 2003). The third forum will be the last in Porto Alegre. "2001 was the affirmation of the counterpoint to the World Economic Forum and 2002 was the struggle over alternatives. 2003 focuses on strategies of conversion."
The development is not simple and linear because the political spectrum is very broad and the common denominator can only be found with effort. At this point, we are far from working out alternatives or identifying two or three global options. The growth of the social movements has made the World Social Forum with its continental and regional distributors into a lasting success story. As bearers of alternatives, their own strategic answers are not yet globally developed. This requires a higher stage of practical cooperation and strategic debate.
The last year has brought a series of advances. As to the self-image of the WSF, the Porto Alegre charter defines the WSF as a space for debates and initiatives without political activity. Still the forum wants to be more than a debating club. As we read in a report from the international council at the end of April 2002, September 11, 2001 fundamentally changed international politics. September 11 prompted the anti-Davos polarization and set discussion about the war, empire and creation of a new counter-hegemony in the center of the WSF's agenda. "Against the growing polarization of the international system. The members of the International Council discussed whether the WSF should take positions on Palestine and Argentina." The result of the debate was that the charter of principles was confirmed. The agenda of the WSF should emphasize themes as well as strategies and alternatives.
In 2002, the council urged that social forums be convened in Argentina and Palestine. The results of these forums will be themes at the third WSF at the end of January and will inevitably politicize the WSF.
Argentina is an example for how capitalist globalization skids from the successful course of the 1990s into a permanent crisis. Last year the Argentinian crisis should have been answered with a worldwide campaign for immediate debt cancellation. This did not happen; a valuable year was lost. In the meantime, several trouble spots in Latin America have been added, above all Venezuela. The continent is increasingly and directly subject to the economic and military control of the US. This goes beyond following the conditions of the IMF. Continental answers must be bound in a common campaign against the pan-American free trade zone. This campaign will promote the necessary exchange of common strategies.
A clear turn to the left has occurred in Latin American societies: the mass movement against the coup de' etat attempt in Venezuela, the elections in Ecuador and Brazil, the mobilizations in Uruguay, the development of the organs of popular democracy and the plant takeovers in Argentina and so forth. The new leftist governments seem afraid of the breach with the IMF system. The World Social Forum's emphasis on exodus from the IMF is more important than ever.
The necessity of politization comes to light at another place. The threatened war against Iraq and the continuing war against the Palestinian people will have prominent positions at the third World Social Forum as at the different continental forums in 2002. In Porte Alegre, the peace- and anti-war movements will also be encouraged through international action days and their proposals.
Last but not least, the dynamic of the continental forums has confronted the strategy of regional imperialist blocks, in particular the role of the European Union in Florence.
Focusing only on the reformism of many non-governmental organizations (including ATTAC) and their obeisance before international social democracy would falsely and one-sidedly describe the development of the social forum movement. The growing social resistance against capitalist globalization is also reflected in the social forums. This is very clear in the worldwide network of social movements.
This network is as old as the WSF itself. During the first World Social Forum, over 1000 persons representing hundreds of social movements, non-governmental organizations and unions from all over the world called the social movements worldwide to mobilize at the different summits: the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO and the G8. These social movements met in August 2001 at the first international meeting of social movements in Mexico City and agreed to permanent closer cooperation. This was confirmed by the declaration of the social movements at Porto Alegre II. The MST and CUT organizations from Brazil established a secretariat from Brazil that made preparations for more international meetings. This secretariat has encouraged a debate on an independent union of the social movements. The debate occurred at all continental forums including the ESF in Florence.
The provisional declaration presented for Porto Alegre III starts from the weakening of the promise of the "Washington Consensus" that fixed the neoliberal agenda for America and cemented market fundamentalism and a growing loss of legitimation of international institutions (including the UN whose powerlessness was demonstrated again at the world summit in Johannesburg). This declaration recognized the rapid growth of the opposition against neoliberal policy in the South and the North and an intensification of the crisis of traditional social movements and political parties.
"The world changes very quickly and we need new structures, new decision-making processes and new ways of articulating and realizing a combative, democratic, internationalist and anti-imperialist agenda. We must establish an alliance of the movements. This alliance must be independent of the political parties, respect the autonomy of its related organizations and not be ideological. While not ideological, the alliance will necessarily be political." Common frameworks should be created that serve as a means for international mobilizations and goes beyond the stage of incidental meetings between the movements of the different countries. A homepage, an Email address and a secretariat are envisioned.
These proposals should be discussed at Porto Alegre III. The impulses and suggestions of the continental social forums should be taken up. With this step, an important part of the WSF would go beyond its charter of principles and seek a political basis for common international action. This will accelerate the discovery of common strategies.