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The WSF in Caracas, Venezuela and Bamako, Mali

The 2006 World Social Forum was held in two venues, activists write on the meetings in Mali and Venezuela

Issue No. 1985

Nicolas Van Labeke and Neil McAlister write from Bamako the capital of Mali in West Africa

The World Social Forum (WSF) opened on Thursday of last week with a 10,000 strong demonstration in the centre of Bamako.

West Africans make up the majority of delegates, mostly from Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Senegal.

Northern and southern Africa are also well represented.

There have been several meetings in opposition to neo-liberalism. Mali is one of the poorest countries in Africa and is a key target for neo-liberal attacks.

The Malian government is already spending twice as much servicing debt as the combined budget for education and health.

As highlighted by a couple of workshops run by Malian NGOs, cotton is one of the industries hit by neo-liberalism.

In Segou, about 125 miles from Bamako, heaps of cotton are rotting in the fields because the cost for a mere three hour drive to the capital is too expensive – a result of an artificially low price on international markets.

A similar situation, caused by subsidised European chicken, is also destroying domestic production in the Ivory Coast.

At a forum on privatisation in South Africa speakers criticised not just neo-liberalism but capitalism as a whole.

The Malian hosts have done a fantastic job in organising the WSF.

However, as in previous events held in Brazil and India, the WSF is organised through different themes, and spread across the city.

This makes it very difficult to draw together all the contributions and reach concrete conclusion.

There is also debate about whether politics should have any place in the WSF – there has always been a ban on the involvement of political parties.

During the opening demonstration, NGOs had a couple of camels bearing a banner about fair trade.

Nothing worth criticism you may think, but when they tried to enter the stadium for the opening rally they were barred on the grounds that it was supposed to be a cultural event and not a political one.

It is clear that this position is not universally accepted.

Despite these problems, the event in Bamako has been a very good experience and is a good sign for the next WSF, which will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, next January. See you there!

Pedro Fuentes is a leading member of the Brazilian radical left party P-Sol. He writes on the run up to the WSF meeting in Caracas

The event starting in Caracas, Venezuela, this week, takes place in the context of a new situation in Latin America.

The recent election of Evo Morales as president of Bolivia is the latest in a series of clear rejections of neo-liberalism.

Since 2000, Latin America has been rocked by huge mobilisations and the election of governments opposed to US domination of the region.

The new situations offer challenges for the anti-capitalist and socialist left – particularly on the question of how to relate to movements and governments such as that of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

Venezuela led the opposition to George Bush’s Free Trade Association of the Americas at the recent summit in Argentina.

The deal suffered a serious blow, although it is not dead. Bush is working closely with several Latin American governments – especially that of Lula in Brazil.

Venezuela, by contrast, has argued for an alternative form of Latin American integration through the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (Alba).

Whatever the contradictions of the Venezuelan government, Alba is very progressive, and a shining example compared to other treaties between Latin American countries.

However, not for the first time, we face a situation in which a government running a capitalist state, which is not a genuine representative of the workers, has come into confrontation with imperialism.

This process will spread in Latin America, where we will see the birth of other nationalist movements which are not genuinely representative of the working class and the poor, and which for that reason will have inconsistent and contradictory politics.

It is necessary for us to take part in the anti-imperialist movement – only by being part of it can we relate to the masses and build mass revolutionary socialist and anti-capitalist alternatives.

At the moment this means that Latin American revolutionaries must boldly support the Alba proposal, and the Venezuelan government’s progressive measures, within a framework of defending Venezuela against imperialism.

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Sat 28 Jan 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1985
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