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Saturday, January 31, 2009

The future of the forum

Here are some more random and incomplete notes from our Future of the Forum session yesterday. We'll try to write up something more complete and formal later.

The future of the forum: The WSF process and the Global Justice movements
UFPA auditório José Accúrcio
30 January, 12h-15h
To be confirmed: Chico Whitaker Meena Menon Boaventura de Sousa Santos Gina Vargas Immanuel Wallerstein Moema Miranda Walden Bello Hillary Wainwright Francois Houtart Francine Mestrum Rodrigo Nunes Nicolas Haeringer Jose Correa Leite

what has the forum achieved in 9 yrs?

Walden Bello: generally positive
1. come together to affirm community
2. site for planning resistance to neoliberalism
3. space for planning alternatives to neoliberal globalization

Could have been a more effective force in intervention in global issues, could have taken more political position on war in Iraq, middle east, Palestine, climate change. Missed opportunities to be more effect. But some want to keep it as an open space: 2 views on open space

Not qualitative advance in forum. long discussions on strategy that hasn't been included.

Fighting neoliberalism was the last war.
capitalism & capitalist elites will be undertaking new initiatives
capitalism can be quite resilient
need new issues approaches
Obama's main ideology is not ideology but success
what elements of global democracy can we support, and what do we oppose?
we are about social liberation
not moment for caution, but for innovation - radical's time has come.

Gina Vargas

Tammy :

importance of leadership
open space: too much attachment to politics as pure; need to hold on to multiple contradictions (patriarchy, land, etc). struggles not always pretty. need to engage in struggles w/ each other. Dialectic. Role of social movements is at the center. space for movements to converge.

Obama: many are in state of observation. need to build separate space outside to hold him accountable.

Nicolas Haeringer:

Forum as form of socialization, of holding people together.
issue of horizontality & consensus
limits to equality
what does consensus mean? not only positive choice, but capacity of social movements to work together to develop project
elecicity / plasticity: to change and expand to meet needs.
autonomous space: Mumbai Resistance and critique of WSF. London and Beyond the ESF. A lot happened in autonomous spaces.

Limits: hasn't been a space for experimentation. Babel vs. private translators here. Do we build alternatives? Not to deny inequalities (Nairobi – pretend everyone equal, but not the case)

conflicts are part of democracy & autonomy

Meena Menon: attracts many people, more than other social movements. Interest in this phenomenon
different levels: local, regional, int'l
India: context of right-wing govt
2 yrs to build forum in India
caste separations w/in political classes
open space is both strength & weakness
did WSF help throw out right-wing govt? gave sense of confidence & unity & inspiration for work
mostly grassroots activists attended forum, space for people to come together
not enough focus on alternatives. still in critique mode, and not brave enough to enter that space
forum is important space to do that
IC does not lead the forum, and that is good. It is organizing committee & facilitates space for political debate. need to have different debates like this in different places (org by IC)
careful not to lose diversity in process

Michael Hardt: admire constant innovations (forum plasticity). attempts to avoid mega events of past (Chomsky events). move away from star events and to plurality, but last nite was the most mega event.
threat to invest too much into forum process & its agency. forum cause & movement effect wrong: reverse. difficult in seeing forum as effect.
North Am/Europe context 3 cycles of struggle:
1. 1994 Chiapas / Nov 1999 Seattle - 2003: great diversity of tactics & struggles. Strength in multiplicity (diversity). WSF process is fruit of that multiplicity. Seattle not departure but arrival when movements became visible. Chiapas fruit of 10 yrs of clandestine struggle.
2. 2003-2007: very different character: against war & bush. unified, inc. in org structures. unity in agenda & organization. decline in energy & creativity. diff. relation to WSF. Feb 15/03 global day of action against Iraq war. movements not adequate.
3. 2007 - :return to plurality & multiplicity of first. twin deaths of neoliberalism & US unilateralism. both dead, but dead sometimes still walk around. lack focus cuz of lack of common enemy? But plurality & multiplicity still plays role. Obamba opens path for new forms of struggle. New opening, new terrain.

Alternatives doesn't come from forum, but from movements & become visible at forum.
leadership (??)
tries to reverse cause & effect

Francine Mestrum:

2 remarks:
negative: very little has happened in Europe, very little political convergence. no agreement was possible. social movements rather weak.
back to 19th cent socialism rather than forward to 21st cent

positive: create new consciousness, another world is possible. yesterday 1M in streets of france wouldn't happen w/o WSF.

what is happening will go on for some time. new language, hidden transcripts. change is possible. it will come out in open.

91K: registered
55K: Para
10k: int'l, inc. rest of LA
good movement for Brazil, but not so int'l
paid translators a pity
objectives: what is it that we want to achieve?
it can be useful, it can help

Francois Houtart: of course WSF is a mess, but it exists. 10 years ago only Davos, but now it is very different. We have to recognize what has been done has had an impact. 2 main achievements:
1. beginning of creation of common universal consciousness. we have to go on cuz we are far from this objective.
2. creation of networks. not official task of forum, but difference between theory & practice. Has worked to create many different networks.

not just financial crisis, but much more profound. food crisis. 50M falling below poverty line every yrs last 2 yrs. ?, climatic, social crisis. crisis of model of development.
need to promote new consciousness

what does this mean for concrete POV?
1. need networks of networks. we have via campesina, but we need to create more to come to common strategical objectives.
2. relation w/ political world. rather than rejecting politics, importance of links w/ political leaders that are performing some alternatives. aware of changes we also need political engagements.

forums have to continue: world, regional, local – because we haven't achieved objectives. capitalism is still hegemonic. we need new historical actor. we need not just to continue, but to implement charter more radically. take it more seriously & be more attentive. but that is not work of forum, not instrument of action. but forum can bring ...
search for common strategic objectives. forum can be instrument to realize objectives.

Discussion (Teivo)

Africa missing. needs to come back. abandoned, but continental for the future
centralized in Brazil. needs to be really int'l
problem of exclusion, fragmentation
missing china as well
how far do we take open space? conservative christian groups?
question of funding
poor people excluded in Brazil. how can we improve link btwn poor people & middle-class leadership
not enough links to struggle against capitalism. what are the weaknesses shown in capitalism
better logistics, even if we hire it out
Ruth: departure w/ political leaders, draws off people & press and sessions canceled. If political leaders come, it needs to happen at a different time rather than across from forum events
forum not unique, history of int'l meetings going back to First International
charter also mentions environment, but left ignores that: just focuses on capitalism to exclusion of development. (Teivo: also patriarchy & other struggles)
Q of audience, and problem of delinking w/ social movements. problems of representation
exclusion of zapatistas & cuban revolution

Chico Whitaker:

Vargas: failure of Nairobi forum cuz of lack of autonomy, fundamentalist pro-life church, commercialization, etc.
autonomy still important, not just of political parties
still space for experimentation

Bello: need to look at logistics, and why 5 out of 7 are in Brazil (to dispel notion that an internal group is making these calls.
need to look at class issues, and to bring excluded people into forum.
leadership & forum: IC was always seen as leadership body, and important to make WSF an important interventionist force, esp. since everyone is demanding that.
important to look at what happened in former socialist countries, to understand that history to chart out future. Not just bring people from post-socialist world here, but to learn from it.

Nicolas: Davos organized by 200 people working year round.
translation is political issue, not service. too expensive w/ private money, but politically needs to be done.
not cost, but organization: more from Mumbai cuz of org, but not so much from Nairobi cuz of lack of it.
questions of funding: are we ready to pay more to mke it happen
short or long term movement?
plasticity: organizer, but also critical forum

Tammy: WSF is instrument and tool, not organization. USSF worked cuz it was not a completely open process, but worked w/ organized communities of color. controversal
we need to address issue of political parties

Moema: USSF cf India, would not have worked if excusionary. opposed to exclusion. shouldn't limit who can speak to how many people (Chomsky). Q of democracy. danger of beginning to exclude pro-lifers. where does it stop? what do we do w people w/ whom we disagree (put them in prison?).
IC; important issue of representation. completely random group of people. how do we make it more representative? if it is open to everyone that excludes people who can not afford to attend. Solidarity funds?
No africans? but no brailians either before Chico arrived. can't have representation from everyone.
logistics: problem that IC is not doing logistics. need meeting w/ input on how this can be done. But every forum is poorly organized.
India: still alive? all part of other movements. Forum doesn't exist, but it left behind alliances.

Francois: positive that 5 presidents came, even tho we don't agree w/ all of their ideas. Important to be recognized. points to importance of social forum.

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