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BEYOND THE WORLD SOCIAL FORUM

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 22 2010 (IPS) - The secret of the vitality of the World Social Forum (WSF) lies in the fact that it is organised as an open space which, without renouncing its original mission of challenging neoliberalism, proposes to recharge the batteries of citizen activism, which is now necessary on a planetary scale if the earth is to move beyond the current mode of extreme capitalism. This process is underway and is following its own course, led by organisations and social movements and networks around the world.

The WSF is inspiring the construction of a collective political intelligence to address the problems, challenges, and possibilities of the fights that we are undertaking, each in its own manner and area, yet interdependent, insofar as we share this world in order to transform it into “another world”.

The WSF provides an open space that can accommodate our great diversity of identities and cultures and the plurality of our visions and perspectives. It constitutes a sort of workshop to forge a new political culture in which we recognize each other as equals in humanity and participants in a single planetary system.

I will not attempt to set out here the history of the WSF. That we can leave to history itself. Suffice it to say, however, that the cultural, political, and economic context has changed considerably between 2001 and 2010.

The numerous recent crises are expressions of the contradictions and limitations of the form of global capitalism that has been imposed on humanity and threatens the sustainability of life on earth.

The assertion that “another world is possible” is now an absolute necessity. Because of this, I prefer to focus on the challenges from this point forward, beyond the WSF. This does not imply that the WSF itself must change, because I believe that its original inspirational mission must be advanced.

The WSF meetings are still a source of hope for many. However, the world is immense in comparison with the size of the Forum thus far. Many seeds must be sown in many parts of the world to generate a powerful will to change. The WSF must continue to build its capacity to mobilise people, especially the young, as we saw in January 2009 in Belem. I am one of those who believe that this “wave of humanity” is unstoppable, since the Forum no longer depends at all on the old group of founders (almost all men, moreover).

The three most inspiring functions of the Forum are reviving hope and putting history in its proper place, as something humans make, not a metaphysically-determined quantity; questioning the determinism and leadership of the culture of the left; and cultivating the energy of the diversity of organisations and movements.

But these are also its limits. It cannot be ignored that the Forum is primarily a process of events that awaken consciences and generate the will for a new project. However, this project is still not the construction of another world. It is just a step, a fundamental beginning, an opening of doors. I see the Forum as a necessary but insufficient condition for the evolution of the new. In order for transformative forces to emerge it is necessary to forge a path beyond the WSF, not as a forum but as a generator of movements that take concrete actions to affect the many facets of a power structure that is in crisis though still alive and dominant.

These are challenges that the WSF recognises. Addressing them will require innovative political-cultural creativity. The dilemma lies in the fact that as a space, the WSF remains indispensable yet at the same time urges us to transcend it and jump from the local to the global level.

We should recognise the absolute necessity of organising the forces driving the agenda in new forms. The WSF will serve yet again as a source of inspiration, but it does not have as its objective the more difficult and continuous task of organising movements, weighing political opportunities, and entering fights.

I will make just a few points regarding the way forward. The first step should be an agreement on the agenda that, however broad, concerns only those who sign on to it, and therefore involves moving beyond the WSF. The most delicate question is creating coalitions of citizen activist movements and organisations with the highest common denominator in terms of agenda and political action (in contrast with the lowest common denominator of various generic and empty declarations).

Thus far the WSF has been relatively successful in issue-based campaigns. What is needed now are coordinated actions of citizen activist groups that take on the existing power structures.

The crucial issue regards the dispute over the political-cultural construction of hegemony in the Gramscian sense, which I loosely define as “large, irresistible citizen movements”. How can we succeed despite the competition for leadership that characterises the left? The secret seems to lie in the formation of open coalitions built on the recognition that they are indispensable to one another, and that their agenda and the creation of a means to achieve it depends on all of them. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

(*) Candido Grzybowski is director of the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis (IBASE) and a member of the International Council of the World Social Forum (WSF).

 
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