The World Social Forum (WSF) is growing. That was clear from its meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, last month.
This growth was despite uncertainty about its future and different opinions on what role it should play. The WSF organising committee announced that more than 200,000 people took part in the opening march and 155,000 people from 135 countries participated in a total of 2,500 activities.
The participation of young people was much more visible than previous years. Among them were 76 members of All Together!, an organisation of socialists building an anti-war and anti-capitalist workers’ movement in South Korea.
The main organisers of the WSF tried their best to push the event to the right, as Chris Harman described in the last issue of Socialist Worker. Instead of taking a strong stand against war and neo-liberalism, they stood close to the Lula government in Brazil, which has gone back on its promises.
But the general mood was not with such manoeuvres. Lula’s meeting, with 17,000 people, was outweighed by the audience for radical Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who drew 30,000.
All Together! participants met many Latin American young people who have been radicalised by the series of revolts that have taken place in the last five years.
A debate organised by Globalise Resistance between anti-capitalist writers John Holloway and Alex Callinicos was packed with these young people, searching for the answer to the question of the day — can we change the world without taking power?
A significant number of young people were interested in revolutionary politics, the role of the working class and the need to build a revolutionary political organisation.
This was evident in the success of a meeting on revolution in the 21st century.
Picture a scene with a panel of speakers from South Korea, Britain and Uruguay, talking about revolution in the 21st century — and an Indian activist, an underground worker from Sao Paulo, a teacher and a lecturer from England, among others, contributing to the discussion. All this is translated into Spanish in one corner, Portuguese in the other corner and Korean in the middle. It is truly internationalism at work.
Another visible strand that emerged in the WSF process is the International Socialist Tendency, the grouping of organisations that includes the Socialist Workers Party.
International Socialists from Europe, Asia, and Latin America made their politics and presence known through various concentrated activities and interventions.
Our anti-war bloc in the opening march was so dynamic, vibrant, international and fun that many people joined in and later visited the stall we set up. Many expressed their desire to march again with the International Socialists at the closing demonstration.
Building on the previous experience at the last WSF in Mumbai, India, All Together! members brought 16,000 copies of leaflets and 200 posters for the 19/20 March global day of action against war. They also had 10,000 stickers that said, “Act on 19/20 March: end the occupation of Iraq.”
Internationalism was again at the forefront of our stalls. International Socialists from South Korea, Ireland, Uruguay, Brazil and Britain took turns to run the stalls and discuss politics with many young people who were attracted to our politics.
At the end of the day, the lesson for the radical left is that while the official proceedings of the WSF were moving towards the right and much of the established left stood on the sidelines, there is a gap for the organised revolutionary left to fill. Doing that means engaging in discussions, arguing clear revolutionary politics, selling revolutionary papers, and building the broadest united front over the central issue of the day — the war and occupation of Iraq.
CJ Park is a member of the South Korean organisation All Together!