Marc Becker's Home Page


Find on

World Social Forum

Monday, February 2, 2009

Leaving Belem

I fly up the Amazon from Belem to Manaus, following about a thousand kilometers of the river, but I see little of it because it is so cloudy. This was my first, and maybe my only, chance to see the river.

When I realized that I was flying back thru Manaus I regretted not taking a layover there to see the famous opera house that was built more than a hundred years ago at the height of the rubber boom. I thought about taking a taxi quickly into town to see it, but there just wasn't enough time. Maybe next time. If there is a next time.

At the airport in Manaus, we have to exit the airport only to reenter it to catch our flight to Miami. At first I thought it was just bad design, but it quickly became obvious that it was an intentional expression of the abuses of the national security state. At the xray machine, they had stationed the biggest, meanest thugs I have ever seen in airport security who were in no hurry to get us through the line. They confiscated Patricia's hair clip. Their only purpose seemed to be intimidation.

But then it gets worse. Dehydration, both on the plane and in the Amazon, is a problem, so I buy a (very expensive) bottle of water. Before I get on the plane, they have a line of mindless minions who once again search our bags, apparently to be sure that we are not carrying water on to the plane. I'm so sick of this over the top security paranoia that I challenge the minion—what's wrong with water? I bought it after security. If there was a problem with the water, they should not have let it through security. But the minion was determined to put the needs of the abusive national security state over those of human decency and survival. She claimed that it was the policy of TAM airlines. What a stupid policy.

So, I continue on thru the jet bridge just to run into more mindless minions with metal detector wands. Sheeze, this is worse than Colombia!

Finally I get on the plane, and it is almost completely empty. In fact, where it not for a group of about 10 foristas who missed their connection from Belem yesterday (and didn't bother to go see the opera house!), it feels as if the plane would only have the four of use who came on the flight from Belem. Furthermore, this is a huge wide body 767. There was some liberal guilt complex handwringing at the forum about the environmental impact of having everyone travel to the forum in the Amazon, and this just makes my proportion of carbon credits that much higher.

This is surely the most expensive flight to run that I have ever been on. But I don't feel one bit sorry for TAM. In fact, I think I'm going to keep their blanket as a souvenir.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


The forum ended this evening with a long line of groups reading their closing statements that they drafted during the forum. Here delegates read the document from the Indigenous tent. Statements drag on and on, and finally I leave in search of an Internet connection and a quite space and time to try to do some reporting on the events of the week. Hopefully I'll have more info available tomorrow.

Press conference

I'm at the press conference right now. I'll maybe upload the audio when it is done.

Crisis of civilization, environmental collapse, post-development, and Buen Vivir

Yesterday I went to the Indigenous tent for the first time for a session on the crisis of civilization, environmental collapse, post-development, and Buen Vivir. I have a bunch of notes that I might type and upload here if I get a chance, but I probably will not be doing a more formal report on it. I also have audio that I'm uploading (look for crisis_civ.mp3).

This morning I returned to the tent for the continuation of these discussions and the closing of the tent. I ran into Janeth, the director of communications at CONAIE, who took her place on the stage.

There were three topics on the agenda for the day:

1. Declarations from the Amazon, Andean region, and India
2. Discussion of October 12, 2009 mobilizations in defense of the Mother Earth
3. Holding a 2010 thematic social forum on the crisis of civilization

All passed with little discussion or dissent.

Later Janeth denounced the Correa administration in Ecuador for its recently passed mining law and extractive enterprises.

The session ended with everyone joining hands and then dancing around the floor of the tent. I'm uploading a youtube video right now.

So we went to eat and then it started to pour again, and when it let up for a bit I checked my email to find out that there was a press conference at 2pm. So, I'm at the press conference right now, waiting for it to start (half an hour late). A bit later this afternoon is the closing session of the forum (I hope it does not rain there). I'm short on time & sleep & internet access, but I'm desperately trying to pull ideas together for FSRN and UDW reports. Yesterday it cooled down, which was nice, but today it is hot again and my heat migraine is coming back. oh well.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Amazon Indigena

I'm in the press center trying to upload some audio, video, and pictures and update my blog when a noisy group come crowding onto the bleachers in the gym where the press center is located. It's a group of Indigenous peoples from the Amazon who are coming to complain that they are dying from disease and that the Lula government is not doing anything to help them. They have a European anthropologist in tow to translate (which, of course, immediately raises all sorts of academic questions of representation) and an Italian member of the European parliament to receive a document about their experiences. The deputy says that he is a medical doctor with 20 yrs of experience in the field of infectious diseases, and will bring the document back to Europe to try to help them.

Tomorrow is the last day of the forum, and so far I have not managed to write much and have 356 emails in my inbox (including yours, Alex). Hopefully tomorrow I can pull some more formal reports together. Right now, it's time to run off to another session or 2 and then dinner....

Facing the Future

Here is another set of random notes on another session on where the Forum is going. More formal reports later (hopefully).

Facing the Future : The World Social Forum, the Global Justice Movement, and Beyond
January 30, 15:30 - 18:30 :
Location : UFPA Professional University, LP Pavilion, Room FP-04
Co-organised by AFM - Articulación Feminista Marco Sur; CACIM, India; Democracy and Social Movement Institute, Sungkonhoe University, South Korea; and ARENA - Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives

Jai Sen: how is forum looking ahead to the challenges of the future? Some fear that it is drying up.
1. calls to change WSF, to make it more political.
2. many different concepts of justice, inc. indigenous ones. different cosmologies. how is WSF going to change to adopt to those. how to relate to muslim world? longer history of muslim justice movement, and we need to talk to them.

Brazil woman:

Balkan man (Andre?): anarchist. systemic crisis of capitalism. important presence of IPs.
end of WSF? Need global movements more than ever before.
paradox of failure of success – lost traction right when gained victories.
3 trends:
1. ?
2. advocacy approach
3. state approach
innovative approach to include parts of all 3
need to take power of state to construct new future
JCM: popular redistribution of power, socialization of power
ongoing process
Marcos & Chavez: Mandar obedieciendo, govering from bellow. hold people accountable.
we need to do 2 things to get rid of euro-centric left:
1. metaphysics of representation
2. state as center of change
WSF important of we change these issues.
in favor of global representation

Quebec woman: following WSF, but first attending. converging or open space movement. whole innovative process. accomplishment of spaces linked to WSF.
reappropriation of a lot of forces attracted to building global justice movement.
Guate forum interesting cuz mostly Indigenous & female.
smaller, people waiting for WSF, but for Americas what happened there is important: reflects grassroots organization. networks & exchanges are important, but org is key. space of WSF is key, move beyond poli parties & labor unions. Now just going & seeing who can be our allies. create spaces w/o labels so we can see who we can work with.
space created has been innovative
recognizing relevance of battles of others

Portuguese woman:
Indigenous challenges to hydroelectric damns

Chico Whittaker: 3 impressions on future.
1. if we begin talking about future we think about present & past
2. influences, representations. best ways to continue.
3. decide by consensus is dificult
logistical difficult
Indigenous proposal for thematic forum on crisis of civilization
Mexico proposal for one on immigration
2011 WSF in US?

Don't need to change charter for Indigenous peoples to come. Participants are owners, they decide agenda. Different Indigenous approaches to politics.

Michael Hardt says that the forum is as strong as its movements

man: forum as process has shown its ability to evolve
Social, economic, ecological crisis
Question of social movements in Latin America
New kinds of social alliances
Living reality of new social alliances
problem is articulation of alliances

French man:
Think beyond nation-state/modernity
WSF is moment in history
is this still the right vehicle for the moment?
a second generation forum?
environmental cost
avoid ritualization
what do we do w/ organized power? victory? been used? relation to social movements
How to accept different forms of movement beyond traditional expressions
use technology to interact
how to pick up conversation after breaks
day-to-day practices; how to continue after forum?

Asian man

Ruth proposal for how to organize forum.
problems of translation: return to Babel? Esperanto?

Torbjorn: no parties and armed groups, but now presidents come but no Zapatistas

Via campesina invited presidents; met outside territory, and tried to plan it so as not to clash with main meetings (at nite).

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.


Larry Walker once noted that it is difficult to attend sessions and blog about them at the same time, and that is definitely true here at the Forum. A lack of time and Internet connections means that I am way behind on most of what I wanted to do. The most I can do right now is to upload some random (and incomplete and perhaps inaccurate) notes and pictures. I hope to write a couple more complete and formal reports later.

Dialogo sobre la integración popular de nuestra América (Ginásio da Universidade Estadual do Pará, January 29, 2009)

Social movements gather four presidents in the WSF This Thursday (January 29), social movements participating in the activity "Prospects for the Integration of Latin America People," with the participation of Presidents Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), at 1pm,in the World Social Forum.

Participate in this activity representatives of social movements throughout the continent, as part of joint movements of Alba, as Via Campesina, Jubileu Sul, ASC (Continental Social Alliance), World March of Women, CTA (Argentine Workers' Central), CUT ( Central Única dos Trabalhadores), CTB (Central of Workers of Brazil), Alai, Caoi, Fecoc, Comp, among others.

Haiti man (speaks some about Cuba)
Magdalena León (Ecuador)

Rafael Correa (Ecuador)

challenge Washington consensus
Indigenous movements
mentions José Carlos Maríategui, Paulo Freire, Fidel Castro
Bien Vivir
21st-century socialism
defend interests
use existing laws
Amazon: need to be responsible for the environment
conserve resources for the next generation
Afro-ecuadorians and history of exclusion
soldiers as citizens
* capitalism vs. socialism, vivir bien, no mejor
alternatives: dignidad

* times of change, time for 21st-century socialism

Fernando Lugo (Paraguay)

social movements make another country
has changed country
overthrow conservatives
but not enough to create society; need more
* creative force to make a more equal society
Guaraní prophecy
Paraguay has to reconsider dignity
protagonist participation
impatience for change
* other world is possible, is being realized

Evo Morales (Bolivia)

competition between Ecuador and Bolivia to remove neoliberal presidents
thanks Indians
* church enemy of positive change, other church/faith is possible
no military bases
new constitution
* proposals to save life
end US intervention
pluri-national state
need change
* quote Marcos: mandar obediciendo; need to govern like that

Hugo Chávez (Venezuela)

Evo & football
9th edition of forum
will speak for 20 min: socialist equality
* applause for Fidel, Che, youth
youth are the future
WSF: assembly for humanity
Fidel: emergence of new world
Marcos: poet
Rafael: washington consensus, full impact of fall of USSR on real socialism
but Cuba always there
VZ: began 20 years ago
first saw Fidel in Caracas in Feb 1989 where attended Perez's assumption (also Daniel Ortega was there)
90s: corana (??)
revolutionary awakening in VZ, including military cuartel (history of popular uprising)
Correa: Harvard economist/Chicago boy
Evo: Indian, Tupac Katari
and then a Bishop & a soldier
Fidel present with us
Lugo at sixth forum in Caracas
Bishop of people, poor, social movements
Chavez couldn't attend 2001 WSF
implementing laws
asked for 5 cases brought before International Criminal Court against Bush for genocide
* Obamba and change: asks for respect for VZ sovereignty
Doesn't have illusions, empire
in impact
Chavez is obstacle
Manta Base (Ecuador)
perfect storm
800M hungry before, 1B now (poverty)
* capitalism at fault
* socialism only path to liberation
depends on forum
Simón Bolívar was a feminist, Manuela Sáenz
* New world not only possible, but necessary
making it now and here
end illiteracy
Pushes Ecuador and Uruguay to oin Alba
Today more than ever have to be Bolivarians

João Pedro Stedile: – MST response

socialism doesn't solve problems??
many identities, movements and parties
Viva Latin American people

closes with singing of Comandante Che Guevara with Aleida Guevara

América Latina o desafio da crise internacional (Hanger)

woman (minister?)
Cândido Grzybowski
Blanca Chancoso (respect)
Amazonian woman

Evo Morales (Bolivia)

product of struggle
against neoliberalism
other world
against external debt
constitution against privatization
recognize Indigenous rights
sovereignty, dignity, identity
great opportunity to create other world
campaign for peace and justice
presidents work together against savage capitalism

Rafael Correa (Ecuador)

* just reflections of awakening of people
bicentennial of independence
crisis of capitalism
end long nite of neoliberalism
Ciudadana Revolucionaria
Latin America confronts crisis
begin new system
21st-century socialism
not capitalism=efficient and socialism = justice, but socialism is justice and much more efficient
need national development plan
catholic region, but most unequal in the world
ethnic justice
cultural project – Indigenous
21st-century socialism is new concept of development
buen vivir / Sumac Cawsay
shuar justice
Latin American integration, United States of Latin America
dignity for all

Fernando Lugo (Paraguay)

why do forums continue?

Hugo Chávez (Venezuela)

largely repeats afternoon?

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Brazil)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pan-Amazon Day

After walking thru the UFRA, I finally end up back at the stage where the Indigenous presentions were to take place, and things were finally underway. I use my press credentials to get up the stage where I videotape an Amazonian dance (I'll upload that to youtube when I get a better Internet connection), take pictures of people, and record their speeches. By this time, however, I need to go meet NIGD for lunch, but traffic is such a mess that it takes forever to get there. After lunch we swing by the press building and then head to a Palestinian meeting, but can't find it and by the time we get there it is ending. And then it takes forever to get transportation to get back from the Forum. And finding an internet connection is a continual struggle, which is just going to get worse. But so is the first day of the Forum.

Opening march

The WSF traditionally opens with a massive march thru the streets of the host city, and the forum in Belem was no exception. The march was scheduled to start at 3pm, but the people at the place where I was staying did not want to go then because "nothing ever starts on time." I, of course, want to see and do everything. But I agreed to wait until 3:30. Maybe that was just as well. Just as we were about ready to leave, the skies opened up for the regularly sceduled afternoon rains. There is, after all, a reason why the Amazon is called a rainforest. This was a particularly strong rain. When we finally went an hour later, we saw people walking back from the starting point of the walk completely drenched.

So, we missed the opening rally for the walk, and joined it in progress at the Praca da Republica. It was a typical march, in many ways. Loud, noisy, and people dancing in the streets. Perhaps this uniquely Brazil cross between politics and carnaval.

This forum is being cast as the Amazon Forum, with a particular focus on (and presence of) Indigenous peoples, and that was very marked in the opening march.

Palestine is also an ever present issue at the forum.

After winding thru the streets of the city for several hours, we end up at closing rally with more speeches and music that goes late into the nite.

Except for a quick crossing with Sylvia and Alfredo, I don't see anyone on the march who I know. I try to remember if that is normal for me on these WSF marches, or if something was different about this one. There are a lot of people here, but it seems like something like 95 percent of them are from Brazil. After drifting around for awhile, we head off to a hotel where we meet up with a bunch of people from our group.

First Day of the Forum

We had a good opening march yesterday, and i will upload some photos later. Today is supposed to be th Pan-Amazon day, and I~m looking for the Indians but they are not where I thought they were supposed to be. So, I started walking around the UFRA until I found this internt termial. It is very hot already, and sweat is running down my shirt. Lots of people (way too many for this south dakota farmboy), but I do not see much going on yet. But I will go back out and keep walking until I find something. later....

Monday, January 26, 2009


After a miserably long trip including a long layover in Sao Paulo (where I ran into town to the Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo to see the European masters including Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet), I finally arrived last night at midnight in Belem, right on the equator at the mouth of the Amazon. I guess stuff doesn't really start until tomorrow afternoon with an opening march at 3pm, but it takes a while to figure out where to pick up our credentials, try to figure out where the press center is, and stuff like that.

Belem is a big city, and it's hot & muggy so I get a heat migraine right away (I begin to associate social forums with heat migraines), but it is always nice to be back in this different environment, in this different world which is quickly on its way to being our dominant reality.

It doesn't look like I'll have much time and even less Internet access, but I'll try to write and post stuff as I can.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Just getting stuff set up and ready to leave on Saturday.

Powered by Blogger

| Marc Becker's Home Page | |