• Contributions to Heads of States discussion

last modified September 3, 2008 by marcella

From: Gina Vargas
Sent: Thursday, August 07, 2008 3:10 PM
Subject: Re: [WSF-Discuss] heads of state in the wsf?

 Dear friends,

I was out of the country so only now have more time to
participate in the exchange about the presence of presidents in the WSF. I
 think it is very stimulating to have this discussion on line

 I was in the Working Group that made the proposal that you have received
 through Teivo Teivanen. There is one part of the discussion that was not a
 consensus, but still has to be incorporated in this summary (I have asked
 already to do so).

Before going to that, I want just to tell you that I have been always
against the presence of national presidents in the
 WSF, and also of political parties as such.

At the same time, in all the Forums, some presidents have been present,
invited by different organizations.  Taking this into account, some of us
 (I was one of the last to be convinced, but now I am) thought that IF they were
to be invited, as was the position of some movements/organizations that
participate in the WSF, it  was  important to establish some basic rules:

Their presence should be outside of the WSF working space and time (after 6
pm); on certain days and not on others; not during the Pan-Amazonic day of
 the 2008 WSF, not on the second day of the Forum and not on the final day.

And basically, that the agenda of any dialogue should be set by us, the
people, the civil society, and not the governments. This last position was
discussed in the Working Group, but did not reach consensus, although it has
to be incorporated in the report of the WG, as I requested.

 I also think that, if we are going to shape the agenda, a co-organized
 activity, the Dialogue and Controversy Panel is more

One other point I made in the discussion of the WG and which has to be
incorporated also as an opinion is, as some of you have pointed out, that
 the presence of Ortega was unacceptable. This is because of his violation  of
human and citizen rights of women, but not only them; also of workers,
peasants, urban and political leaders. And because, finally, the
Interamerican Court of the Organization of American States accepted the
case against him for incest.

With all these elements that you have raised and the ones discussed in
Belem, we will continue the discussion in the IC.





From: Francine Mestrum
Sent: mercredi 6 août 2008 9:54
To: 'Chico Whitaker'; 'wsfic_fsmci@listas.rits.org.br'; 'Post WSFDiscuss';
'CACIM'; 'Reitan, Ruth'; 'peter waterman'
Cc: 'nigd-list@nigd.org'; 'ginavargas@telefonica.net.pe'; 'Teivo Teivainen';
'Reitan, Ruth Carol'
Subject: RE: [WSF-Discuss] heads of state in the wsf?

Dear Chico,
Thanks very much for this clarification, which, in fact complicates matters.

If heads of state are invited by participants in the WSF, clearly this can
never happen without the explicit involvement of the organizing committee,
if only for security and logistical reasons. You also mention some type of
'co-organized event'. This seems to me a very slippery way of working. It
allows for preserving the principles of self-management, but at the same
time the WSF IS involved. And what if indeed, let us say, Ortega is invited
and many people do not agree? How will the organizing committee (or the IC?)
decide? I think it is impossible to organize without very clear rules and
principles. As I had already the opportunity to say before, self-management
is a very beautiful principle, but if left to itself, it leads to problems.
Involvement of the WSF, organizing committee or IC can only happen within
very strict and very clear rules. We should avoid all arbitrary decisions.

Secondly, I do not know and therefore do not trust all the participating
organizations. If one organization can invite Ortega or Morales, than
another will think it can invite Zapatero or Lugo or indeed Hezbollah or
political party responsibles or civil servants from the World Bank. I am
very much against it. This is a highly political question that just cannot
be left to 'self-management'.

Again, I have no objections to inviting heads of state, if it can help to
boost our movements and if the responsibility is with the organizing
committee and with the IC. But I am absolutely against if it is left to
'self-management'. It opens the door the many developments we may not like.
And please let us avoid 'mixed' formulas that leaves the responsibility
unclear and undecided.





From: Chico Whitaker
Sent: Tuesday, August 05, 2008 9:54 AM
Subject: Re: [WSF-Discuss] heads of state in the wsf?

Before this Peter's provocation to enter in this debate, I had already decided to say something, as I felt some misunderstandings were appearing.
The discussion of this issue in the IC Methdology Commision meeting in Belem came because we, that were there, thought that with what is happening with
presidential elections in Latin America many participants would like, perhaps, to invite Heads of State. And then we would need to use the WSF experiences (as we said: " There were different and coincident evaluations about the previous experiences of Head of States participation in the WSF events")  to avoid problems putting conditions like the ones we indicated. For instance: "that any event with them be held at the same time of self-organized events held by the movements and organizations taking part at the WSF" (in prejudice of this selforganized activities).

So, our idea was not to "change the Charter of Principles" in this and
other points, as some have said already (going even to the question of violence), but to take into consideration the fact that this eventual presences (of
Heads of state), with all the atraction and midiatic weight of it, would have to be previously analysed, exactly to avoid improvisations and solutions that could prejudice the Forum activities. That is to say, even invited as individuals and always by participants and not by the WSF facilitators (according to the Charter), we could foresee
some conditions for this special type of guest (even in "Co-organized activities": participants plus faclitators). These conditions could then enter in the "The Guiding Principles for Holding a WSF Event", a document that will be also discussed in the next IC, without the intention of reviewing the Charter.
So, local mayors and governors (as it happened in the first Forums) and  even Presidents (as it happened in  2003 with Lula) could come to wellcome the participants to their city or country, but that is all. Other types of presence would be according to the Charter of Principles in what concerns the selforganised activities in the Forum (as it happened in 2005 with Lula and Chavez).
The Methodology Commission in Belem never thought about the WSF facilitators inviting Heads of State (and then deciding who yes an who not), but how
they would manage this issue if some Heads os State were invited by participants (with perhaps a special difficulty if some have the foolish idea of
inviting, for instance, Berlusconi...).

That is all. Please read again the proposal (it is only a proposal for discussion) sent by the Commission. I hope the misunderstanding can be overcome.
All the best, Chico Whitaker (speaking personnally, not in behalf of  anybody and still less of the Commission).


From: Peter Waterman
Sent: Tuesday, August 05, 2008 7:21 AM
Subject: Re: [WSF-Discuss] heads of state in the wsf?

I have already received 4-5 reactions to my 'heads of state @ WSF' piece.
Thanx to all who have contributed. I am awaiting further reactions -
particularly from people within the IC of the WSF - before responding.

Peter W.


From:"Reitan, Ruth
Sent: Monday, August 04, 2008 5:50 PM
Subject: Re: [WSF-Discuss] heads of state in the wsf?

Greetings from South Tyrol (and soon enough to be Miami, again). And thanks
to Jai, Teivo, Peter and Francine for cross-'contaminating' our lists.

I propose the following:

Keeping in mind that (macro)regionalism is the likely global trend in the
near and medium term, and giving due respect to the 'magical' formula that
is the WSF Charter of Principles, I think we should be
cautious about altering the Charter to include elected officials in their
'official' capacity (not, as the Charter currently allows, as individuals),
because it might have unforeseen--or wholly foreseeable, depending on one's
current opinion--consequences, such as: the polarization of the Forum
outright campaigning and counter-campaigning, bringing back the competitive
and majoritarian logic of electoral politics, the possiblity of charismatic
leaders instrumentalizing the Forum for their own advantage, triggering a
boycott, or at least considerable protests, on the part of women (and some
men) who find Daniel Ortega more politically--because sexual abuses of
are fundamentally political--vile than Sarkozy, and, finally, begging the
obvious next question of: why invite our ostensible 'allies' in political
parties or office and not in armed groups? Inviting Ortega at the extreme
but even Morales at the other begs the question of why not the Zapatistas?
Or Hamas? Or Hezbollah? Or Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia? The answer to me is not
obvious; if it is to you, then you need to have a long, introspective look
at why that is so.

While the Charter mentions its support for non-violent struggle two or
times, are we really all in agreement that this is the only supportable
method? Do we really want to have that discussion in the IC? Maybe we
do. If
so, then invite the political parties, by all means. Things will start to
get interesting  again (and the SWP should be the first to thank you for

But if the IC does not want to open the discussion re: armed groups, then
they (we) should not take up the debate on political parties or elected
officials. Because doing so makes some untested assumptions about a shared
'common sense' and 'common methods of struggle' that I do not think we
really have; or if we do have it, then 'we' are not as diverse as I assume
we are, nor as 'we' ostensibly aspire to be.

How to avoid this unhappy but largely foreseeable confrontation with our
diversity, while safeguarding the WSF Charter of Principles in the
off-chance that its current formula is what makes the whole thing work?  I
would say kick it down to the level of the regions:  Because what makes
'common sense' in the current context of Latin America may also make sense
in Europe today, but it may make less sense elsewhere, or next year.

Is there not also being planned, simultaneously to the WSF 2009, an Amazon
Social Forum, or it's equivalent? Perhaps that regional committee, if it
deems it politically useful and with proper protections of the Forum space
and schedule, could take it upon itself to organize such parallel or
auxiliary events. This would forego a big roiling discussion within the WSF
IC in September that may snowball at future meetings, and would avoid the
WSF making such a political decision for the 'world' of social forums,
so to

I think an equivalent decision has already been taken by the ESF
Assembly around the time of the last ESF in Athens, to allow parties to be
openly represented and thus to drop the charade of front organizations
had developed within the ESF, or am I mistaken? In any case, this is a
decision that, while it will still be controversial, is most appropriately
discussed at the regional level, not something over which we should try to
amend the WSF Charter. In the context of South America, inviting Morales
(for sure) and Ortega (eh, maybe) could have positive, synergistic effects;
but I foresee big problems if we attempt to take this up at the IC for the
whole WSF. Leave it to the level of the regional social forum to decide, if
at all.



From: Francine Mestrum
Sent: Mon 8/4/2008 11:50 AM

Subject: RE: [WSF-Discuss] Fwd: [DEBATE] : Re: [nigd-list] heads of
state in
the wsf?

Away from capital, church, state, corporations, even empire .

Wow Peter, how very well said!

This formulation certainly will have success! Such a clear, easy to
understand and pure message!

But then, I come to think: who will pay?

Who pays for your travel costs? Who pays the organizations that pay for
travel costs? Who pays the ngos? How many leftwing philanthropists do we
have in our movement?

Ever thought that we can only exist and meet thanks to capitalism?
Thanks to
the air companies that bring us all over the world? Thanks to the states
corporations that give us their space and infrastructure? Who will pay the
secretariat, the organization, the travel costs??? Or shall we only
virtually exist? Through the internet? Do you believe that?

Please let us stop to speak and think in slogans. They do not help us.

Now seriously.

I have no real problems with the invitation of 'our' heads of state or
governments. Sure, it will lead to very difficult discussions on who can be
invited and who not, but that is a minor problem. A speech by Correa or
Morales can boost our movement(s), can be very mobilizing and give us some
media attention. They can make us stronger. So no, I am not against is.

But there is another part of Peter's message that is very correct: it is
the organizing committee/methodology commission that is 'politicizing' the
WSF, whereas for other matters they absolutely refuse it.

So I think that if we invite heads of state of government, it should
also be
possible to give other political gguidelines to the Forum: apart from the
self-organised events, there could be some co-organised events on specific
issues that concern us all: the food or energy crisis, trade issues,
development, financial matters. I still would like to defend the idea of
organizing some major debates with the best people we have who can present
to us the terms of the debate, the context in which we are working, the
recent developments. This could help the different movements to take
political positions, as networks or movements, not as WSF. It could help to
prepare the alliances we need to have a real political impact. If the WSF
wants to survive, it should be more than an 'open space' for meeting, it
should help us prepare our positions and our alternatives. We are losing
momentum, heads of state are not enough to save us. This is very urgent.



From: Peter Waterman

Date:  August 4 2008 1:26:11 AM GMT+05:30

Subject: [DEBATE] : Re: [nigd-list] heads of state in the wsf?

Reply-To: "debate: SA discussion list " <debate@debate.kabissa.org>

I have a simpler answer to the question posed above and argued below:


I am well aware of the compromises the Social Forums have made with both
statespeople and corporations. And of the fact that such compromises have
NOT been extended to the Zapatistas, whose military moment was short and
long past. And whose example has inspired the global justice and solidarity

The complex and slippery formulations in the proposal below speak of bad
faith, a messy compromise and are an invitation to endless argument about
which head, or which state is 'progressive'. (South Africa under the ANC
Government of Mbeki? In the future under Zuma?)

The originality and prestige of the WSF rests on its 'representation' of
global civil society. 'Representation' is, of course, a disputed
concept, as
is 'civil society'. I take these terms to be aspirational and processal:
that means that the WSF should be seeking ever more energetically to engage
and speak for civil society - the latter understood as that social force
that emancipates society from the hegemony of capital, state, organised
religion, militarism, patriarchy, etc.

With the proposal below, it will be leading figures and/or organs of the
that will split the WSF rather than those 'extremists' they have
In so far as 'politics' is taken to be that which pertains to state power,
it will be the WSF that 'politicises' the forum, rather than those who have
been accused of wishing to do so.

Oh, and I am not relieved that Sarkozy will remain univited. Firstly, who
the hell would invite him? Secondly, however, this leaves open the
possibility that a 'progressive' European leader, of some 'progressive'
state will be found suitable for a future invitation.

I am appalled that whilst the embattled Zapatistas continue to be excluded,
the argument below would allow for the possible presence of the head of a
one-party dictatorship (addressed here by his first name!), and one
condemned by feminists and (global) civil society - if not his courts - of
raping his step-daughter.

What this whole exercise smacks of is the social-partnership politics of
Social Democratic, Communist and Populist parties and movements of the 20th
Century - compromises that led to the irresistible rise of the
Neo-Liberalism the WSF is supposed to be against!

It makes possible invitations to 'socially-responsible' corporations or
CEOs. Also to heads of 'progressive' inter-state organisations, such as the
International Labour Organisation (itself profoundly compromised with
capital, state and globalisation).

Finally, it cannot but confuse an international public increasingly
confronted by state-sponsored, corporation-supported efforts that have long
been trying to profit from the successes of the WSF and the global justice
and solidarity movement, such as 'Make Poverty History!'.

Should we not now change the slogan of the WSF from 'Another World is
Possible!' to 'An Old World is Possible Again!'?

Peter Waterman


From: Teivo Teivainen

Sent: Sunday, August 03, 2008 6:11 PM

Subject: [nigd-list] heads of state in the wsf?

Dear NIGD,

One of the controversial issues in the WSF events since the beginning has

been the relationship with states and, more particulary, with heads of

states. One of the issues to be debated in the Copenghaguen International

Council meeting is the following draft document on this question.

Love & peace,