Socialist Worker

8,000 at Asian Social Forum

by Socialist Worker\'s YURI PRASAD reports from Hyderabad, India
Issue No. 1833

HYDERABAD IS a city that is held up as a Third World high-tech success story by champions of globalisation. A myriad of multinational firms have settled here to take advantage of Indian workers' skills. But this week Hyderabad has been home to something very different-the Asian Social Forum (ASF).

Some 8,000 delegates are packed into two university campuses around the city. They have come to discuss a bewildering array of questions, but some of the main themes have been opposition to the effects of globalisation and opposition to imperialism and war.

Every country in Asia is represented, and so are many from other parts of the world. Many delegates travelled here in specially chartered buses and open-top trucks decked out in red flags.

Speakers who have attacked the US war on Iraq have gone down particularly well. On the first day, well over 1,000 delegates attended a meeting in opposition to war. They heard from peace activists from Pakistan, the US and South Korea, while delegations from Afghanistan and Iraq were cheered. The meeting ended with Bob Dylan's 'Blowing in the Wind' being sung in both English and Hindi.

Abdul Jawal Saleh from the Palestine Liberation Organisation got massive applause when he said, 'I hope that the ASF will rekindle the fight against imperialism and colonialism-a new global movement is emerging.' Kenji Kunitomi from the Asian Peace Alliance in Japan agrees: 'Opinion polls show that the majority of Japanese people are against the war. At first our demonstrations were small but they have grown. 'In June this year we had a peace march of over 60,000.'

Kritsada Boonchai from Thailand thinks that, 'Since 9/11 the US has tried to make a new world order and a war on terrorism. It now impacts on every country. We are all being dominated and the US is taking advantage to impose economic 'reform' on our countries. In Thailand we are facing the forced privatisation of our water. But today we went to a workshop organised by the Bolivians who stopped water privatisation. Now we want to try the same tactics.'

The mainstream Indian press is widely reporting the event, giving over half a page every day. On the main campus are two enormous tents. Each holds over 2,000 people.

It is here that the main plenary sessions are held. In temperatures that soar above 30 degrees, people gather to hear big name speakers like Samir Amin, Walden Bello, Arundhati Roy and Vandana Shiva. But everywhere around the campus there are smaller meetings where everyone gets a chance to have their say. The hundreds of stalls of organisations that are supporting the ASF have crowds of people around them, where discussions rage and merchandise is sold.

The most popular T-shirts either have a picture of Che Guevara on them, or are emblazened with the slogan 'Derail the WTO'. When the sun starts to set, people gather in groups to continue the debate, bands play and street theatre is performed to crowds hundreds strong.

Everyone says that the most important aspect of the ASF is the chance for learning from other people's struggles and making links. The questions that people are asking here in Asia are exactly the same questions that people are asking across Europe.

There is a strong sense that 'Another world is possible'-and necessary-but there are many arguments about what that world should be like and how can we fight for it. The ASF is proof that anti-capitalism is certainly not confined to white people in the 'rich West'. Rather it is truly a global movement with a common cause.

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Article information

Sat 11 Jan 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1833
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