In its trajectory, the World Social Forum has become the main event for popular movements from many countries. This year, in an unprecedented deed, the Forum was a polycentric event. And also for the first time it could reflect the air of the new moment Latin America is now living: the trend towards the progressive movement’s growth. Cebrapaz — the Brazilian Center of Solidarity for the Peoples and Struggle for Peace — had an outstanding participation both in the Bamako Forum, in Mali, as well as in Caracas, Venezuela, last January. Its Communications director, writer and international issues analyst José Reinaldo Carvalho, who was present in both events, offers an examination of the international situation and of the meaning of the rise of the left in the following interview with journalist Priscila Lobregate. To him, “the spirit of the time is not one of conciliation with imperialism, but the anti-imperialist struggle” and the organization of the “new struggle for socialism.”
This year, for the first time we had a polycentric version of the WSF. And the great news was the fact that part of it was held in Bamako, Mali. What is your appraisement of the fact that Africa held the event?
José Reinaldo Carvalho: The Bamako World Social Forum was the outcry of African peoples against colonialism and capitalist globalization that are the causes of that continent’s poverty and misery. In their main mottos, they said that a new Africa would only be possible in a fair and helpful world and that neoliberal globalization is equal to social Apartheid. In other words, there is the understanding that the idea that another world is possible is not enough. It is necessary to name the conditions in which that world and that new Africa will become possible.
In the opening political act, the WSF representatives from Bamako, from the civil society and organizations made speeches in a combative manner. The contents of their words was clearly anti-imperialist, anti-neoliberal and highlighted the fact that, as long as economic and social policies aimed at Africa are carried out by the same international financial and economic bodies that take the lead in globalization, those policies, which theoretically would fight poverty, will be nothing but the false combat of poverty.
To those who are part of that struggle, it is heartening to see local leaders debating and reflecting on their problems in a mature way and devising proposals that converge to the platform of anti-imperialist struggles. It is necessary to report that poverty in Africa is the result of the neocolonialist policy of imperialist powers. In visiting Africa we could see how inequality is shocking, how income and wealth are concentrated in wealthy countries. It shows that overcoming the present system is an urgent matter to the survival of humankind. In case neoliberal policies are maintained, the social life will increasingly degrade, civilization will step backwards and give way to barbarism.
Before the Forum, a conference organized by many entities of the social movement against war and imperialism took place in the capital of Mali. As the director of Cebrapaz, your participation was the result of an invitation made by the event’s organizers. What is your opinion regarding that conference?
The conference preceded the WSF in Bamako and was held in the same city on January 18th. It was organized by the Third World Forum, the World Forum of Alternatives, the Forum for Another Mali and by the NGO Environnement et Dévelopment du Tiers Monde (ENDA-TM) under the leadership of renowned intellectuals such as Samir Amin and François Houtard. The event was inspired by the anti-colonialist ideas of the meeting of Bandung, which took place in 1955 [a milestone in the struggle of Third World nations and non aligned countries against colonialism]. Its motto was the struggle for a “new Bandung,” the “Bandung of the peoples.”
The conference has brought the task of organizing a new anti-imperialist movement, against neocolonialism and neoliberalism. It stands from the evidence that the world lives in a neocolonial system, under neoliberal globalization and the attempt of imposing a unilateral hegemony of the United States, which imposes a strategy of war and military domain over the planet. Therefore, it is mandatory to organize the struggle bearing in mind two strategic goals. The first of which is to defeat the neoliberal policies that are dominant and of international reach. In order to defeat them, it is necessary to fight the bodies that generate neoliberal capitalism — IMF, World Bank and WTO — which are, as a block, in the words of Samir Amin, a kind of “new mystery of the colony” and are also responsible for policies that are harmful to the national sovereignty, the social development and the progress of countries and peoples. The aim is no longer to claim partial changes in the system, deluding the people with a fake possibility of remodeling capitalism. The Bamako conference has set the challenge of defeating the present system, taking into account the comprehension that such a system cannot operate unless it does so at the expenses of the increasing misery of dominated countries.
The second aspect is to defeat the United States’ imperialism policy, its strategy of dominating the world by means of the military control of the planet, war and a military intervention policy, of deforming and lowering democracy and of violating international legality. Neoliberalism does not work in a democratic way. Such a system is only possible by means of governments that become more and more authoritarian or pro-colonialist, willing to build governments that are functional to imperialism and subordinated to its designs.
Aiming at achieving those two goals, the conference has addressed another important question, the struggle for a new UN, which can only appear within the scope of a new international economic and political order. The United Nations has lost its functions, which were lowered by the United States’ Imperialism, and is only called upon by the that country when it is a matter of using that body as a tool in order to make the demands of imperialism be fulfilled. At present, we are not facing just any juncture-related policy of the United States’ imperialism. Its policy is one of global and permanent war against sovereign nations and peoples. That is incorporated in the Republican Party’s platform and in its establishment.
What is your evaluation on the WSF evolution throughout the years? And what about Caracas’ WSF, especially at this present moment when the left seems to be reborn in Latin America?
The WSF, since its first edition in 2001, in Porto Alegre, has undergone several stages and has been assuming a new face. The first stage was limited to identifying the problems and making diagnosis on the globalization’s world order. Afterwards, it has evolved to a new phase in which punctual manifestations were organized. And as it was becoming a space for the great assembly of social movements, the forum evolved to some propositions that resulted in the great manifestations against the FTAA and the imperialist war. It was in the bosom of the WSF system that the social movements were able to accomplish the great journeys of global struggle, such as the ones of February and March 15th, 2003, which preceded the United States’ aggression against Iraq. Even though they were not able to prevent the war, they have played an essential role in forming a worldwide consciousness against the imperialist war-oriented policy. Now a new need appeared, the need to — while maintaining the spirit of making concrete propositions — reach the nervous center of world’s problems, which are the neoliberal policy and the war and world militarization strategy of the United States’ imperialism. Therefore, it is time for the forums to make concrete and more politically oriented propositions. Otherwise, the forum is risking becoming folklore, due to its multifaceted character, which is positive, but which could result in the dilution of its objectives. The polycentric forums of 2006 put in evidence that a worldwide anti-imperialist movement is being formed and a great volume of struggles with such objectives is appearing.
Were Bamako and Caracas that evolution?
Both polycentric WSFs took a great step towards making the forum anti-imperialist oriented. It was essential to hold the forum in the capital of the country that is the stage of the Bolivarian revolution, a profound, extensive and unique mass movement in the present circumstances. On his 7th year of government, commemorated on February 2nd, Chavez has the massive support of the population. The fact that the WSF was held there shows an advantage in relation to other forums since the environment in Venezuela is of anti-imperialism.
Another relevant point is that, even though the contours of what will be socialism in the 21st century are not clear yet — since socialism should not have models — the Bolivarian revolution has ideologically evolved to a point where Chavez now presents the implementing of socialism as a key issue. He claims “socialism or death”. That is, the Bolivarian Revolution is anti-imperialist and has the strategic goal of reaching socialism. Those ideas marked the discussions in the forum. Therefore, in a diversified forum, the jost searched activities were the ones aimed at anti-imperialism. There was a clear feeling that imperialism — even though strong and holder of an enormous destruction power — is not invincible, and that the limits to its actions lay in the depth of its structural crises, in its historic accentuated decadence and, jost of all, in the people’s reawakening and becoming against all that. On that base, the conscience of the need to organize the new struggle for socialism respecting the conditions of the contemporary world and taking into account the peculiarities of each country and region is being formed.
How was the participation of Cebrapaz in Caracas’ Forum?
Despite being a forum outside our boundaries, we had an extraordinary presence of militants of Brazilian popular organizations, among which Cebrapaz. We focused our attention in some activities, such as the presence in the opening march and in the political act with president Chavez in the Poliedro gymnasium, in the Conference about the world dominating strategy by United States’ imperialism and the resistance and struggle of the peoples, where we had a dialogue with the president of the Cuban National Assembly of Popular Power, Ricardo Alarcón, the political scientists Atílio Borón and Ana Esther Ceceña and Venezuelan writer Luís Brito Garcia, before three thousand people in the majestic theater Teresa Carreño. We also organized a great conference with Cebrapaz, the World Peace Council and twenty entities and movements engaged in the struggle for peace from all over the world, coordinated by our president, the federal representative Socorro Gomes, and also another conference in defense of the Amazon, based in the militancy of the Cebrapaz’ Amazonian bureau, which had a highlighted presence in Caracas. Our spirit in the Caracas’ Forum was to contribute for the perpetuation of the World Social Forum as a space of articulation and struggle of worldwide social movements with an anti-imperialist, unitary character. We are now facing the challenge of building the second Brazilian Social Forum, next May, in Recife and Olinda where the Court to condemn president Bush and the United States’ imperialism for war crimes will take place, as one of its jost important activities.
Despite the relevance of that event, the Brazilian mass media did not give the due attention to the WSF. What is your analysis on the posture of our national press?
That happens because of an ignorant attitude by the Brazilian mass media, which is politically and ideologically biased. Our press went to Caracas to do gossip and intrigues, like the newspaper Folha de São Paulo and the magazine Veja are used to do. That sort of attitude renounces to the main function of journalism, which is to inform the reader. Unfortunately it is an attitude nourished by a feeling of opposition towards the direction taken by the forum. While it was an event belittled as an “ideology fair”, it was interesting for the press to spread it out. When it became a consolidated social and political movement, it ceased to be important news and to be useful to the editorials of our heavyweight media.
What has changed in the international situation in respect to the acts by the United States?
We are now living a new political moment. President Bush’s government, already in his second mandate, has rigorously achieved no political victory. I would say that not even military victories since what was done in Iraq was a wasteland operation, exerting a lethal destruction power for which the United States government will have to answer before History for against humankind. President Bush committed a genocide in Iraq. That was the American victory. The United States invaded Iraq believing that the people would receive them as liberators and, however, they are being combated as occupiers and slavers. The victories of left-wing leaderships in Latin America are political defeats to the United States, as well as the mass manifestations and the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, for instance. The succession of defeats demonstrates that the United States’ policy does not manage to impose itself like it wants, obliging them to cope with certain electoral results, at least for the time being. The Far East has also been an overwhelming defeat for the plans of United States’ imperialism. That is the case of the great crack in the Likud [left-wing Israeli party, of which Ariel Sharon took part], the total failure of Sharon’s policy and now the result of the elections in Palestine, a radicalization of the process of struggle for the Palestinian liberation, due to the failure of pro-American policies in the region. In Iraq, the Americans are now discussing the best moment and manner to withdraw because they know that they are stuck in a quagmire and no longer have a way out for the occupation. There are rumors in the international press that president Bush’s agents in the military occupation are trying to contact the resistance summit, which they classify as “terrorist”, in order to find an honorable way out for the American troops. It is proved that after the 20th century struggles’ experience, marked by great democratic, popular and socialist revolutions, as well as by anti-colonial and pro national independence struggles, it is impossible to maintain an occupation regime, no matter how big is the destruction power of United States’ imperialism. Inevitably, the national factor imposes itself with incomparable strength. Positively, imperialism is not invincible. Without a doubt, it will be defeated.
And what about the ascension of progressive leaderships in Latin America?
It is necessary to distinguish, within the process of ascension of progressive leaderships in Latin America, the differences among them. It is not possible to trace a sign of equality. There are more profound and radical processes, such as in Venezuela, and what seems to be the one inaugurated in Bolivia with the victory of Evo Morales. And there are processes of moderated and limited character, like in Brazil and Uruguay, and even more limited in Chile. Michele Bachelet’s victory was only a way to hinder the victory of the right-wing, but we should not nourish the illusion that she will do an anti-neoliberal government nor even a left-wing one. There are also good expectations in Mexico and Nicaragua for the next elections. They are different leaderships in different contexts. But it is possible to say that, in general, there is a progressive impulse in Latin America and that such an impulse comes from society, people and social movements that have been able to elect different levels of progressive, anti-neoliberal governors. The Latin-American left must come to two conclusions from that. First, that it is necessary to support that process. There are sectors of the world, Latin-American and Brazilian left that want to ignore that process with false antinomies. Some claim to support Chávez and Evo Morales, but not to support Lula, Kirchner and Tabaré Vásquez. Chávez, himself said that one cannot demand that president Lula does in Brazil the same he is doing in Venezuela because the two realities are different. He has that lucidity and at the same time knows that it is necessary to support Lula because, in case he is not reelected, that process might retrocede.
If Brazilian neoliberals (the PSDB-PFL alliance) win the elections, the United States will have here, in Brazil, a prop firmly placed in Latin-American territory in order to fight for the FTAA and against the progressive processes in our continent. But it is also necessary to come to another conclusion: the ambience that is being formed is favorable for the actuation of progressive forces. It is necessary that those forces, being coherent and realistic, are able to find their space in that new environment and also that they have more political audacity in the social movements, mobilizations and government policies at all instances because what we can observe is that, for instance, an economic policy that goes against national and popular interests and the yearnings for change of the Brazilian people, for which president Lula was elected, lasts for a long time, the government and the forces that support it inevitably risk to be disfigured. Lately, some problems have appeared in president Lula government’s foreign affairs policies, which, even though positive, can be opposed, in some aspects, to the spirit of that new moment.
I quote two examples of that, not as criticism, but calling attention to real problems. One of them is the Brazilian presence in Haiti. That decision was a mistake and it is now complicated to withdraw. The explanation that the Brazilian presence in Haiti was a way for Brazil to show its qualifications to act in international crises and that way achieve a seat at the United Nations Security Council is not convincing. It has been demonstrated that such aspiration depends on the articulation of other kinds of alliances and other political circumstances. We risk to see an action taken in the name of peace become its opposite, even if the intention was a noble one. Another example is the struggle against the protectionism of wealthy countries, an important goal of president Lula’s government’s foreign affairs policy, which had its peak in the formation of the G-20, at the WTO meeting in Cancun. Now, however, our “commercial” diplomacy entered more pragmatically in the WTO meeting in Hong Kong, maybe under the pressure exerted by the necessities of the economic policy that makes usage of the exports model as a mechanism to reduce the foreign financial vulnerability, or by the agribusiness’ lobby. And it ended up accepting certain compromises in face of very vague promises that will not be accomplished as regarding the withdrawal of subsidies. Europe and United States will not give up on their subsidies.
Brazil cannot act as a spare power of the United States in its struggle against Europe at the WTO. Brazil must act as an agglutinating force of the dependent, oppressed countries and continue the struggle for development as it did in Cancun. The search for a fair international trade is a legitimate struggle for development. Nevertheless it is incompatible with WTO’s concepts of free-trade. For that organization, the so-called free-trade works as a mechanism for the developing countries, including Brazil, to liberalize their capital markets and investment rules, deregulate even more their finances and capital markets and give up on their national preferences regarding government purchases, as a trade for something that is unknown. Wealthy countries are not willing to give anything in return. That is the logic of the ferocious struggle fought for markets among the imperialist powers and those countries will not yield their markets.
We are entering the electoral period, of open political struggle. I believe that for president Lula and the forces supporting him to be accredited in order to govern Brazil for other four years it is necessary that they stand up to the new challenges and the spirit of our time — and that spirit is not one of conciliation with imperialism, but one of anti-imperialist struggle.