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Alternative Social Forum - Caracas, January 2006

* From Venezuela we extend an invitation to an international event of and for social movements in the struggle, as a more valid option to the bureaucratic spectacle the World Social Forum has become.
Call to the Alternative Social Forum

From January 24 to 29 2006 the VI World Social Forum -WSF- will take place in Caracas and in other parts of the world. The Venezuelan capital will also host the II Social Forum of the Americas.

We are a group of social activists, artists, professionals, workers, leftist intellectuals and people convinced of the need for change and the promotion of freedom and social justice, we believe it is appropriate to open and maintain spaces for debate and the construction of the dynamics of transformation; however, considering the experiences of National Social Forums, the diverse Festivals in Solidarity with Venezuela, the World Festival of Students and Youth and the very conformation of the committee promoting the WSF-Caracas, the conditions do not exist to make the January gathering a pluralistic, independent, open, self-managed, and non-deliberative encounter as declared by the same World Social Forum.

We therefore issue a call for an Alternative Social Forum during the same days, with the participation of all those in agreement with the importance of opening a space for gathering, debate and the rebuilding of social networks, a space for the debate of the movements' agendas and not the ones imposed by those at the top, whatever their sign, and critical of the fixed-point and the contradictions in the Bolivarian government, a space for meaningful debate on the revolution and the traditional political categories in times of globalization, where the diversity, identity and autonomy of the participants are honored, that would transcend from being a week long forum to become an open permanent network for dialogue among the many actors, a counter current to the blackmails, manipulations and false polarizations that have characterized the current situation in this country.

The Alternative Social Forum aspires to be a net with as many hubs as possible, performing many activities in different places throughout the nation, with an agenda collectively defined and coordinated in a decentralized way. We want a space without homogenizing intentions and without electoral rationality that will in practice and in its discussions be a reply to the authority, imperialism, capitalism, economic globalization, bureaucratic cronyism, militarism, machismo, ecological destruction, exclusion and discrimination that oppress us in our daily lives.

Frequently asked questions about the Alternative Social Forum -ASF-

1) What is the ASF and how does it work?

The ASF is an initiative for the development of a meaningful debate about the significance of social change today. It tries to be a wide and diverse network of groups engaged in activities in various points of the Venezuelan geography, with a collectively defined agenda and decentralized operational coordination. Any person or group can propose a topic for discussion or make a call for a reunion, video forum, workshop or talk on any matter of interest, participate in any discussion or generate a new one. The ASF will make sure all gatherings will be promoted equally and that all the parts can communicate among themselves with no restrictions. If need be, the ASF could also look for physical space, logistical support and suggest speakers to enrich the discussions. The ASF is a dynamic moment for debate and construction, a plural network of forums for discussing and confronting ideas while respecting the human condition of those who defend them.

2) Who finances the ASF?

This forum is a self-managed effort and will not accept donations or contributions form State organisms or private enterprise. Its financing will come from the contributions of the participants as individuals, from social and cultural collectives or donations from foundations or academic institutions that do not threaten its autonomy.

3) How can I participate in the ASF?

Anybody interested and in tune with the general principles of the ASF can take part. There is no accreditation or static membership and taking part in the dynamics is effective when proposing events or taking part in the activities put forth by any of its participants. The degree of commitment is variable and range from lending a space to helping maintain the network and the communication among the various links.

4) Where is the ASF located?

The ASF doesn't have offices or paid personnel. The ASF exists as long as there are discussions and relations among the different performers under its name, given that diversity enriches and strengthens such space. In principle there is a web site www.fsa.contrapoder.org.ve and an email address to make contact  fsa@contrapoder.org.ve

5) Is the ASF anti-Chavez?

The current government of Venezuela is not the only or the most important issue, the agenda will be formed as many times as necessary, by those who believe they have something to argue in favor or against. The participants in the ASF will take a position on any national or international situation, but the ASF as such rejects the dichotomy - promoted by the powers that be - that splits the nation between "chavistas" and "opposition" and will defend its independence from any institution, whether public or private, as well as from political parties. As can be seen in our call, the ASF responds to some general principles such as the rejection of capitalism, economic globalization, bureaucratic cronyism, militarism, bureaucratic and authoritarian socialism, machismo, imperialism, ecological destruction, exclusion and discrimination. In tune with these values, the ASF is a pluralistic space for dialogue, discussion and debate for all those who want social change and are active in social movements.

6) Given that the ASF is a network of forums and links, who can speak for the forum?

There will be no political declarations under the signature of the ASF. Participating individuals and groups can, when they deem it convenient, show their own opinions or their relationship to the ASF, but nobody can make collective declarations. Operational decisions will be taken by means of decentralized coordination.

7) Will the ASF propose candidates for elections?

The ASF harbors no electoral intentions and will not allow candidates of any sign to capitalize on it. The ASF will not support or advertise any candidate of any country for whatever office. The individuals taking part can vote or abstain according to their ideology.

8) Can political parties take part in the ASF?

Everything is open to discussion in the ASF and there isn't any previously decided issue: the forms of organization, electoral suffrage or instances of municipal, local or national power are subjects for debate. However, being that political parties already have their own communication platforms and proselytizing spaces, the ASF will avoid becoming an electoral party and will not accept the incorporation as such of parties and organizations enrolled and active in the National Electoral Council. Any militant from such organizations may become individually involved and may participate in social, cultural, intellectual or sports collectives.

9) Is the ASF against the World Social Forum?

There is generalized refusal in the ASF. Some promoters have questions regarding the form and spirit of the development of the WSF, but our dynamic doesn't attempt to compete or be a rival with the WSF. We think that the current situation in Latin America - with several rhetorically left governments in power- is different than when the WSF appeared as a counter weight to the Davos Economic Forum. This situation opens up new agendas for discussion, for example the performance of the Latin American Left in power, more or less influenced by social policies promoted by the same WSF, the performance of the NGO's or this space - in theory the "movement of movements" - reproducing the hierarchies and dynamics of global power. On the other hand, we doubt the ability of a country where there isn't any autonomous and struggling social fabric to stage an event of this nature without becoming an act of proclamation or an appendix to the political propaganda of the Venezuelan State, as we have already seen in the National Social Forums and the various international conclaves that have taken place in Caracas. Given these considerations, we take the dates for the WSF as a motivating factor for the development of a space in which the country's social movements may engage in dialogue, debate their agendas and exchange experiences without the blackmails and polarizations that stopped and fragmented the people's organizations and mobilizations initiated in 1989 for a profound change in society. The promotion of an ASF is a reply to the diverse exclusions, the belittling of thought and the imposition of electoral rationality upon popular people's initiatives. Therefore, the ASF is born not to become the rival of the WSF, but to initiate a dynamic for debate from and for the local social movements that we think does not exist today.

10) Can I participate in the ASF while also participating in the WSF?

The ASF empowers the autonomy of the individuals that take part in its development, therefore anybody is free, if they so wish, to get involved in the events or discussions of the WSF as with any other political initiative and, in parallel, to take part in the ASF. The ASF wishes to ensure that the agenda for discussion, brought about by means of a decentralized network, will occur independently of whether this debate also happens in other instances.

homepage: homepage: http://www.fsa.contrapoder.org.ve