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Some reflections on the WSF   Input18

First of all, I celebrate the beginning of a long-overdue debate that those of us who still feel part of that collective dream that began in Porto Alegre have needed for a long time. @ 1 I have read the texts [of the discussion adios al fsm?] And add some small comments to the diagnoses, before trying to approach the central theme of these debates: the political nature of the WSF and its form of organization and communication.

In the diagnosis of the time

1)      The diagnoses - which I fully share - of globalized problems are fundamentally economic, political, ecological and feminist. I would only like to emphasize an intolerable consequence of macro economic and political causes: @ 2  the Permanent War of the Powers on defenseless countries and populations, which appears fragmented and as a "response" to alleged provocations, but never stops. It is always War, with the same effects of destroyed cities, of dead, wounded and orphans, as all the others, colonial or not. Now it is fundamentally in the Middle East, and for years (when the WSF made its magnificent global march against the war in Iraq) it has happened without pause, jumping from one country to another with a kind of naturalization of the scenarios and a programmed fragmentation that It hinders the sustained reaction over time by alternative spaces. Even though we all know that what is disputed are the natural assets of that area and not the alleged "lack of democracy" (which may exist,but it is its citizens who must take care of it) @ 3 there is a progressive fatigue in maintaining the level of political visibility. And it is not only the West, the powers in the region and fundamentalisms of all stripes act in suspicious coincidence, both in actions of war and in the violation of social and political rights painstakingly conquered by societies. In the Muslim world they are justified in religion, when the vast majority of intellectual referents and historical leaders claim that the bases of their legitimate religious beliefs have nothing to do with these new reactionary versions. Numerous "civil wars" have thus been provoked in societies that previously lived together without conflict. The same happens with inter-ethnic struggles.There is a lot of evidence of up-to-date colonialism behind those scenes… and we can't get used to it.

2)     The second concern is that the deaths and harassment of migrants and political refugees are permanently denounced, but @ 4 little is said about the ethnic and cultural diversity racialized by Europeans and North Americans, when the populations of the Global South (as Boaventura calls them) are the majority victims of these xenophobic policies. Embodied in the structural causes that make people flee from their territories and the wars that have been provoked, larvae colonial racism has exploded with overwhelming magnitude. The appearance of right-wing governments is not by chance. @ 5 And it seems to me that diversity, racism and intercultural relations are little present in the central debates of the WSF, beyond the specific workshops. Other knowledge, economies, forms of social and political organization, relationship with nature and spirituality, meaning of life, should have a greater space in general discussions, because at the end of the day we are talking about the majority of humanity…. 

 In the debate of its political nature

1)      As has been well pointed out, the tension between the space of exchange and articulation on the one hand and @ 6 the need to give a public response to the very serious global problems has been present in the WSF since its inception. And it has not been resolved, which generated the progressive wear and tear of a large part of the social and political leaders with a strong local and international presence, as well as many intellectual referents who gave the debates at the WSF their particular historical brilliance.

2)      @ 7 More serious is the joint political silence that existed in the face of atrocious violations of collective human rights, on the part of a space that had burst onto the international scene as the window of the colonized, exploited, marginalized, discriminated against around the world. The voice that could channel the silenced voices, the absences produced, at a global level. And therefore, the privileged place to denounce the naturalized horrors of the colonial, capitalist and patriarchal system.

3)      @ 8 I would like to ask ourselves what is the cause of such unresolved tension in 20 years. What seems clearer to me is the fear of a centralized and bureaucratic leadership co-opted by organizations that impose their ideological designs on global statements and actions. That the historical and current left (and the leadership of crystallized movements and organizations) have been and are not very democratic, there is no doubt. A large part of those who were attracted to the new space did so (we did) by rejecting authoritarianisms and dogmas of parties and organizations and their form of "representation" that did not represent but was "instead of". For this reason, from the beginning it was accepted that political parties could not participate as such.

4)      But these historically given defects and frustrations of the popular field, do they imply that @ 9 we abandon any possibility of publicly intervening as a collective in the face of wars, mass rapes, the terminal ecological crisis, the economic genocide of the majority, the migrants dead floating in the Mediterranean in front of closed ports? Because it is not about speaking for or against Venezuela, it is about crimes against humanity ...

5)      In short, I think I see fear within sectors of the WSF and the CI of manipulations of all kinds that we social activists know well. It is feared that with the excuse of having a joint voice in the face of very serious events on the international scene, certain groups will impose a single speech. Well, then what do we do in the face of these real risks? @ 10 Do we take refuge in sectoral spaces and minimal local or regional articulations? Or do we fight for new forms of democracy (or a political and social organization that surpasses it) within this fascinating space that has managed to bring together so many illusions? If we fail to address the historical tension between the two positions with a radical critical spirit, we will not be able to break the paralysis and it will be time to lower the curtain.

 In the structure of the WSF and the IC

TO.    We all agree on the substantial importance of social movements and the need for their articulation. But those who reach the IC are not the majority of the movements that exist and effectively fight in the territories. Those who go are members of NGOs or intellectuals that support them. I think that some of these funds should be used to send popular activists from various regions, on a rotating basis. And that part of the budget obtained for the events would have to finance the alternate presence of leaders of local and regional movements that do not have a presence in several continents (condition for the IC) but that carry out strategic struggles. Precisely the global spirit of the WSF is to connect and articulate them.@ 11 The rotation of members of popular movements around the world in a greater proportion would allow to know much more closely the local and global struggles.

B.    Something that was discussed a lot throughout the process was the periodicity of the events. Personally, I think dropping the annual mirror reversal meeting with Davos was a mistake. However, @ 12 when it was argued that “the process was as important as the event”, that a meeting of such magnitude was very difficult to carry out in a short time and that regional or thematic events of less effort and structure had to be promoted, seemed reasonable. The problem is that this was not done either: in the IC meetings, the complete list of them was never had, nor was time taken to see actions in their explicit support. The forums were born spontaneously, and they grew or disappeared without our knowing it, except for the times that some member present commented on their existence.The point is that if there is no annual event there must be several events that year actually accompanied by the IC, from its initial idea to its final report. @ 13 Giving as much importance to these forums as to the great international event is also a way of democratizing the WSF. But you have to provide them with visibility and support. In particular, Thematic Forums are very interesting to overcome localities and articulate movements and organizations with similar struggles on a global level. I remember the importance at the regional level of the Thematic Forum against Neoliberalism that we held in Argentina in 2002 (with the support of the IC) when reactionary policies were advancing on various continents. The IC could discuss the importance today of promoting with specific movements global thematic forums on the most urgent issues.

C.    Finally, there was always an issue that was as scared as political centralization, because it was inevitably associated with it: @ 14 communication. In the different commissions of the CI dedicated to the subject that were happening over time, we presented an infinity of plans, projects, designs and communication proposals. It was about the global visibility of the WSF. The necessary political support to carry them out was never achieved, and the minimum resources obtained were exclusively for circumstantial needs of the events, not to think of communication as a strategic tool. I am convinced that the cause is the same: whoever has a voice over the WSF can “manipulate” the information. It can, but to avoid it, we need democratic control over it, not to prevent it from existing. On the first years,the effort was for the appearance in the traditional and community media; now the desert scene is the internet. I believe that until the underlying political problem I alluded to before is resolved, it will not be resolved either.

The languages

Finally, I would like to rethink (I have tried several times before, always without success) an issue that worries me. Most of the participants in the discussions and exchanges about the WSF, in written or oral form, do so in English. @ 15 This language has been naturalized as the “lingua franca” of humanity, while only a few English-speaking countries do. we look at the geopolitical map. All the languages ​​officially adopted by the countries of the South of the world that were colonized speak colonial languages, it is true, but none has been accepted as universal. Spanish is not spoken by some countries but by a continent (even with a strong presence in the two English-speaking societies). Portuguese is in one of the largest countries in the world, in addition to the nation of origin and its former African colonies. The Arab world,In all its extension, it must adapt to this trend of the global progressive intelligentsia, endorsing a cultural hegemony that goes hand in hand with the economic, military and political. Asia remains a mystery, because we do not hear it speak (except at the wonderful WSF in Mumbay). In the African Forums there was little room for local languages. Of the Indigenous Peoples, nothing….

 Many times I have been told that it is to "facilitate" exchanges, "because they all speak English." It is not true. I have been in multiple meetings and workshops of the WSF where most of its members spoke other languages; and they ended up asking for the English translation. Why? Those who speak English cannot study another language or listen to present or digital translators, as the rest should do? This is one of the pending subjects of the WSF, due to its complexity. There were interesting attempts to address it, but the high costs of simultaneous translation at the beginning and the difficulties of the colleagues who translated by groups meant that all this was left with good intentions, and the opposite is naturalized. We must advance in facilitating the diversity of languages, and therefore of thoughts, with interest and creativity.@ 16 The hegemony of English within the WSF continues to refer to a cultural colonialism that is not going away.  

        Norma Fernández (Argentina) - Popular University of Social Movements