Monday, January 19, 2004
Blogging the World Social Forum
Well, the fourth annual World Social Forum is currently underway in Mumbai, India. The World Social Forum is an international gathering of leftists intended to be the good doppelganger of the rich and powerful's World Economic Forum, focusing on globalizing democracy and human rights rather than on globalizing corporate dominance.
From this Reuters story:
Thousands of dancing, singing and debating activists from across the world declared war on big business at an anti-globalisation meet in India's corporate capital on Saturday.
Labour leaders from South Korea joined Indian farmers, American volunteers and Afghan women to denounce multinational companies as more than 100,000 activists assembled in a Bombay suburb for the six-day World Social Forum which began on Friday.
"Nestle, Coca Cola quit our countries. Give us our rights," Jose Bove, a French sheep farmer who has become a flag-bearer in the challenge to "economic imperialism", told a cheering crowd packed in an auditorium in the northeastern suburb of Goregaon.
Nobel laureates Shirin Ebadi and Joseph Stiglitz, and Bove, best remembered for demolishing a half-built McDonald's outlet in France nearly four years ago, are among a dozen prominent names at the fourth World Social Forum (WSF), being held in Asia for the first time.
As tribals with painted torsos danced vigorously carrying anti-globalisation banners, singers skipped down another lane belting out criticism of big business while another group performed skits about the exploitation of impoverished farmers
The New Standard, a brand new web venture (which greatly deserves support -- so go donate some money) founded by a bunch of Znet alumni, is running the ongoing posts of a number of WSF participants, including Michael Albert of Z Magazine fame. Here's some highlights:
Jan. 16: Of course what is most striking, overwhelmingly so, is the lack of north americans, the sparseness of eurpeans, and the tremendous presense of asians and to a lesser extent -- but far more than at past wsf events, africans. It gives a very different tone...a very positive one, of course. -- Michael Albert
Jan 17: One interesting and amusing feature of this forum, distinct from last year's forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil which I attended, is the constant song and dance of Indian activists -- literally. At least 5 times during this morning's plenary, a throng of people behind a banner, banging drums and chanting slogans in hindi, walked in, interrupting speeches. The streets of the grounds are clogged with similar groups who sing about their causes and dance with abandon. Men and women mingle comfortably and dance with one another in a manner rarely seen elsewhere in Indian society -- certainly not city culture. It is a sight to see and foreign journalists and delegates are delighted to surround them with cameras and audio recorders. -- Sonali Kolhatkar
Jan 18: There is also a suprising number of groups from across Asia that are hosting events with titles like "Beating Bush in 2004". Although not specifically geared for a US based strategy, there is a lot of space being given to electoral solutions to beat Bush. In fact, many local activists have outright said that a priority for the US movement should be ousting Bush this year, and that it's OK if we have to postpone our US Social Forum another year to do so! There is almost as many mimes and clowns in Bush masks here, mocking the man, than even tribals. Will Howard Dean masks be in vogue next year? I guess we'll have to wait and see what the US activists-cum-voters (and the Iraqi resistance) have to say about it. -- Todd Tucker
Jan 19: Many events are sparsely attended, while the crowds dance, sing, and celebrate in the paths outside - partly this is due to language and shortage of translations, partly, I think, it is due to the fact that the content of most venues is so familiar to people that being outside feels more contentful …[snip]… I just finished a session -- rather large -- on alternatives to globalization. It was interesting, there was at least some discussion (other than my own) about actual institutional choices we might opt for and their implications for how we struggle. But, ultimately, there is all too little of that...though more than in the past. I guess my feeling so far is that the trajectory of the WSF phenomena continues to be very positive --- increasing and enriching mutual ties and solidarity, expanding attentiveness to explaining what we are for now, and in the mid term, and even as our ultimate visions, and increasing --what words to use for this -- identification with struggle as the center of one's existence...to win that new world people now constantly mention and proclaim, and sometimes even try to describe. -- Michael Albert
You know, maybe it makes me a bad blogger but I am just much more interested right now in what's going on at the WSF than what's going on in Iowa. I guess I'll be more interested in the Teenage Gang Dems after tonights big Kucinich upset ;)