Some Notes on the Social Forum Phenomenon

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THROUGH THE MONTHS OF 2000 around Brasil and parts of
Latin America, there was concerted effort to bring together
parts of civil society, historically disenfranchised over
decades of dictatorships and economic hegemony by the
North, mainly by the Monroe (en)Doctrinated United
States. The culmination was the 1st World Social Forum in
Porto Alegre in southern Brasil, which leaves a legacy to
this day; it is arguably partially responsible for the independent
direction that Latin America has taken away from
the “Washington Consensus.“
The eventual electoral of Pres. Lula‘s Worker‘s Party
(PT) could also partly be credited to the opening aided by
the Forum‘s activist agitation.
At the first gathering and there have been nine major
forums subsequently, principles were formulated that have
guided the world wide phenomenon. For a sense of the
groups’ vision, here are two of the fourteen approved and
adopted in São Paulo, on April 9, 2001.
1) The World Social Forum is an open meeting place for
reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation
of proposals, free exchange of experiences and
interlinking for effective action, by groups and movements
of civil society that are opposed to neo-liberalism
and to domination of the world by capital and any
form of imperialism, and are committed to building a
planetary society directed towards fruitful relationships
among Mankind and between it and the Earth.
2) The World Social Forum at Porto Alegre was an
event localised in time and place. From now on, in
the certainty proclaimed at Porto Alegre that “Another
World Is Possible,” it becomes a permanent
process of seeking and building alternatives, which
cannot be reduced to the events supporting it.
Of course, in the corporately globalized world, the
Forum was partially a response to the gathering of those
captains of capital who had been meeting regularly in
Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum.
It‘s also the case that the Battle in Seattle, where the
World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference
of 1999 was derailed by activist outrage and less developed
countries opposition, resonated at WSF 1. The
awareness that there were activists inside the northern
behemoth who shared the critiques of the IMF/World
Bank/WTO invigorated the meetings at Porto Alegre.
Northerners from the overdeveloped world joined the
movement, by going to the south as well as by having
Forums in their own locales. There have been forums in
Chicago, Milwaukee and US Social Forum in Atlanta. As
the Public I goes to press, work is ongoing towards a Central
Illinois Social Forum at the IMC on Saturday May 2nd.
There will be a monthly People‘s Potluck to continue these
beginning efforts.
A visitor to the 3rd forum Noam Chomsky, perhaps
more noted outside of the US than within, found his
largest single audience in Porto Alegre where he spoke
before nearly 30,000 attendees.In his speech he chose to
champion the Brazil based Landless Movement (MST),
perhaps the most disenfranchised group in all of the
Americas. Their activities are chronicled by the Chicagobased
organization: Friends of the MST, http://www.mstbrazil.
Given the economic, environmental and social turmoil
of the day, one might add to the slogan: Another world is
possible, the urgent call: Another world is necessary.

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