World Social Forum 2003

By Orla Drohan

Socialist Voice February 2003

THE THIRD World Social Forum, which took place in Port Alegro, Brazil, on the last week in January, was the largest gathering in the event's history so far.

It is estimated that over 100,000 people participated in total including 5,717 organisations and 20,763 delegates from 156 countries. The opening march alone attracted an estimated 140,000 people. Opposition to the threatened war on Iraq and the 'free-trade' zone for the Americas (FTAA), rightly seen as an attempt by the USA to expand its economic hegemony over the continent, emerged as major themes. As did support for the Venezuelan people against the right- wing attempts to topple the populist President Chavez, who attended the Forum.

Undoubtedly, the most anticipated event at the Forum was the speech of Luiz Inacio da Silva (Lula), the recently elected PT (Workers' Party) President of Brazil. Hopes of 'another world' amongst participants at the WSF found its clearest expression in the reception they gave Lula, whose emotional speech credited "the political consciousness of the voters" for his election. However, in an attempt to moderate people's huge expectations in his government, He warned "Running a government is like running a marathon. You can't rush...[otherwise] you'll and up panting in the first street corner".

Controversially, after the WSF Lula attended the annual meeting of industrialists, bankers, politicians and 'experts' at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the event to which the World Social Forum had been set up as an alternative. "Lula is trying to prepare the activists for the fact that he will not be able to deliver on all promises. He is not intending to break with capitalism", said Eliana Oliveira, from Socialismo Revolucionario, the CWI in Brazil.

One of the most vibrant aspects of the Forum was the youth camp, a huge meeting place where 25,000 people attended discussions and cultural events. When the Movement for those without Education (MSE - the ISR's Brazilian affiliate) held a meeting in the camp, 100-200 people discussed plans to stage occupations in universities demanding democratic access to higher education. CWI supporters from several countries who attended the WSF found a warm reception for ideas of unity between radical youth and workers in struggle and the need for independent class ideas among the thousands opposed to capitalism, wars and imperialism.

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