Richard Moore

Delivered-To: •••@••.•••
From: "Michael Albert" <•••@••.•••>
To: <•••@••.•••>
Subject: ZNet Commentary / Norman Solomon / From Porot Allegre to ZNet / Jan 29 
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2001 19:20:04 -0800

Commentaries are a premium sent to Sustainer Donors of
Z/ZNet and that to learn more about the project and join
folks can consult ZNet at http://www.zmag.org or the ZNet
Sustainer Pages at


By Norman Solomon

The World Social Forum here in southern Brazil is being
reported around the planet as an oppositional counterpoint
to the annual bash in Davos, where corporate leaders have
been gathering for three decades at their World Economic
Forum retreat. In contrast, the gathering in Porto Alegre is
dedicated to another set of goals, under a banner profound
in its simplicity: "A different world is possible." Five
subversive words.

The unofficial slogan of the Davos elites -- and of
present-day corporate domination -- could be "A different
world is impossible, and we intend to keep it that way."

Some say 8,000 or 10,000 people are here at the World Social
Forum (including 1,700 journalists from around the globe).
But the numbers are much less important than the energy and
spirit: People have been engaged for several days in a
gathering that gives much reason for hope, inspired by the
reality that we're a global movement, acutely aware of some
responsibilities and possibilities.

"Across the world, a thousand and one new forces are
emerging," Eduardo Galeano said at one of the many sessions
that have filled to overflowing (with simultaneous
translations in several languages). Beyond the shorthand
term "neo-liberalism" is a vast need for astute analysis and
an even vaster imperative for ongoing action. The events in
Porto Alegre promise to transform: how much, we don't know,
but after participants in the World Social Forum return to
almost every country on Earth, one catalyst is likely to
lead to multitudes more.

"Let's save pessimism for better times," Galeano suggested
the other night. He attributed the saying to graffiti on a
wall in some Latin American city. But I instantly thought of
the political situation in the United States (where my
pessimism of the mind has been suppressing my optimism of
the will, lately).

The World Social Forum will probably happen again a year
from now, in Porto Alegre or some other place. One of the
big challenges will be to find rooms large enough to hold a
sizeable fraction of all the people who will want to be
there. This huge meeting of the last few days is likely to
help set off a new global wave of resistance to the
corporatization of the planet. Any realistic hope for the
World Social Forum has already been exceeded. Maybe we need
less "realism"; then we might be able to become realistic
about the potential of a cooperative and determined movement
to insist that a truly different and better world is

It's literally impossible at this point for any one person
to fully describe what has been happening in Porto Alegre,
with so many plenary sessions and workshops going on (four
plenaries at a time, for instance, and hundreds of workshops
over the course of the week). But it's safe to say that
something extraordinary has been taking place here, at once
as unpredictable and predictable as what occurred in Seattle
a little more than a year ago. Feel it in the air, wonder if
you're getting carried away, ask colleagues and friends for
their impressions -- and the responses keep coming back:
agreement that the levels of discussion, organization, and
possibilities for follow-up are exceedingly high.

In the air at the World Social Forum is very intense belief
in what goes by the label "civil society" -- not in some
stuffy way, but in an on-the-ground sense of praxis and
possibilities now just coming into reach because of all that
has come before. It's moving to think about how fervent this
belief is, at a conference based in Latin America, where so
much repression and suffering has been inflicted with
military and economic mechanisms, where so much hope for
liberation was placed in armed struggle -- largely replaced
by different forms of struggle, with neo-liberalism as the
named enemy and advocates for civil society as the declared

"There is no greater truth than search for truth," Galeano
said. The World Social Forum seems to be all about searching
for that possible different world. "The system presents
itself as eternal… The power system tells us that tomorrow
is another word for today."

At the moment, the World Social Forum is still going on.
Before I go (to another workshop), I feel it's important to
add a few words about this country's Partido de los
Trabajadores -- the Workers' Party of Brazil.

The first World Social Forum is happening in Porto Alegre
because the Workers' Party (PT) is in power in this city's
government now, as it has been for the past 12 years, with
one election victory after another. The Forum has been
nurtured in the logistical, political, ethical, and
spiritual contexts of the PT. As one Brazilian speaker said
yesterday, the emphasis is on genuine participatory
democracy, which includes the ongoing systematic process of
drawing up the city budget of Porte Alegre. "We're moving
towards an egalitarian left, and this is the reflection we
want here."

Richard K Moore
Wexford, Ireland
Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance 
email: •••@••.••• 
CDR website & list archives: http://cyberjournal.org
content-searchable archive: http://members.xoom.com/centrexnews/

Please take a look at 
    "A Guidebook: How the world works and how we can change it"

    A community will evolve only when
    the people control their means of communication.
            -- Frantz Fanon

    Capitalism is the relentless accumulation of capital for the
    acquisition of profit.  Capitalism is a carnivore.  It
    cannot be made over into a herbivore without gutting it,
    i.e., abolishing it.
    - Warren Wagar,  Professor of History, State University 
      of New York at Binghamton

Permission for non-commercial republishing hereby granted - BUT 
include and observe all restrictions, copyrights, credits,
and notices - including this one.