The demonstration was supposed to begin at 5pm in Porto Alegre's market square. There were groups with banners at various corners, but they seemed dispersed and separate. But at seven that evening, when the summer showers had ended, 40,000 people flowed into a single column. They were young, old, black, white, men, women, Latin Americans, Africans, and a European contingent that included 1,500 Italians full of the enthusiastic spirit of Genoa.
Decisive battles are set to take place. They are part of a hidden war waged by the New Labour government. It is a war to destroy one of the pillars of the welfare state-council housing. New Labour is out to privatise three million council homes. In Birmingham tenants will begin to vote on 18 March on whether their homes are handed to private housing associations.
"I know many of our union's members will be concerned about what the government is doing. Don't all rush to send motions to the union conference about the way we use our political fund. I can tell you the leadership of the union will be suspending funds for Labour unless there is a substantial change in policy." That was the message to union reps from John Keggie, the union's deputy general secretary, last week. He was speaking to reps from all over Britain. They had gathered the day after a ballot had overwhelmingly backed a national postal strike over pay.
"A new foreign policy" is how the Guardian's Martin Woollacott described George W Bush's chilling speech threatening war across the globe. Woollacott and fellow Guardian commentator Hugo Young are just two of those who backed Bush and Blair's Afghan war but are now shocked by the US's new global war drive. Even former Tory minister Chris Patten has spoken out.
The movement against capitalist globalisation is alive, growing and truly global. Some 70,000 people here in Porto Alegre, Brazil's southernmost state, are giving the lie to Clare Short's dismissal of the movement as well meaning white middle class people who have no support in the Third World. The World Social Forum first met in Porto Alegre a year ago. Then, between 15,000 and 20,000 people took part.
The debates at the World Social Forum have underlined the polarisation that is beginning to develop within the anti-capitalist movement. Undoubtedly Porto Alegre has witnessed a determined effort to co-opt the movement.
'Everywhere we went we bumped into a funeral. We went to the town of Salfeet in the West Bank. Many houses had been bulldozed just two days before we'd got there. They'd built a little hospital. It has four beds and two doctors for 60,000 people. People from Ramallah have to use the hospital as well. There are lots of stillbirths.
Pay is suddenly a major issue-and not just for striking rail workers. Official talk of an economic boom in Britain, while much of the world slides into recession, has sharpened the feeling of millions of workers that they are being left behind.
It is 8pm and in squares, parks and streets across Buenos Aires, people begin to gather in their hundreds, to discuss, to debate and to organise. Neighbourhood assemblies meet in the open air on the warm summer evenings. "Today a meeting of the local assembly hits the ratings of even the most popular TV programme," reports journalist Stella Calloni.
Everyone who ever saw it remembers The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil, the 1973 play by John McGrath, who died last week. The play traced a continuing history of exploitation and class struggle in Scotland, from the savage expulsion of the peasantry to the arrival of the multinationals in the 1970s.
"There is no longer a case of a winter beds crisis-there is a total beds crisis all the time." That was the reaction of a worker at the Whittington Hospital in north London after the furore that erupted over the treatment of 94 year old Rose Addis. Rose's family complained that she was left unwashed for three days in the hospital's casualty department.
"My union has supported Labour candidates in every election since it was founded more than 100 years ago. But no longer can the party take the support of our members for granted."
British Paratroopers deliberately murdering unarmed civilians as they desperately try to run away or crawl to safety. This is what people who watched the recent TV dramas Bloody Sunday and Sunday would have seen.
Two forums, two visions of the world. That's what is taking place at opposite ends of the American continent this weekend. The world's rich and representatives of global corporations are gathering at their World Economic Forum in New York. In the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre tens of thousands of people are converging for the World Social Forum, which challenges everything the New York meeting stands for.
The debates in Porto Alegre have been given added urgency by the unfolding crisis in nearby Argentina. Friday of last week saw a new eruption of mass protest, with clashes with police in the capital, Buenos Aires, and people attacking banks in some cities. The protests were organised by the neighbourhood assemblies that are springing up across the capital and other cities.
Around 150,000 post workers are voting on strikes over pay. The ballot closes on Thursday of next week. Workers have shown support for strikes at mass meetings during the last week. That feeling now needs to be turned into a big vote for action.
George W Bush has given Israel the signal to unleash all-out war on the Palestinians. Last week he backed the menacing presence of Israeli troops around the offices of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Arafat is now a prisoner of those forces, his every move tracked and controlled by his enemies.
Murder, mutilation, robbery and starvation-that is the reality of life for those Afghans who survived George W Bush's war on terrorism. The US bombing and the turmoil that has followed has moved hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. Many now cling to life in refugee camps. Starvation stalks the country. One camp is home to 150,000 destitute people. International aid organisations admit they are overwhelmed. In the southern city of Kandahar revenge killings and mutilations have become common.
LAST WEDNESDAY Tony Blair jetted in on a brief visit to England. While quite at home in the company of dictators, warlords and George W Bush, Blair soon felt in need of protection from his own backbenchers. One minute you can be a great international statesman, a war leader in almost freakish control of your party.
WORKERS ACROSS Britain are beginning to voice their anger and frustration with the New Labour government. They see continuing privatisation and the government pandering to its big business friends while workers have to battle over pay, conditions and job cuts. Trade unionists spoke to Socialist Worker over what they feel about New Labour. They raised questions about the unions funding the Labour Party.