Threats and Challenges: The VI World Social Forum Caracas 2006, 14 December 2005
Latin America appears to be walking definitively into a new political age and the year 2005 illustrates that there are several main issues affecting the political compass of this region. One of the main findings of current analyses of the ‘conjuncture’ relates to the more aggressive foreign policies of the US that are creating distress in this region of the world. This aggression has been met with intense popular resistance and mobilization against neo-liberal policies and US strategies of intervention in the region. Sites of popular resistance, as the cases of Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina demonstrate, represent pieces of a much more sizeable struggle developing in the continent. Mobilization against the CAFTA in Central America, renewed efforts of the Zapatistas for gaining a higher profile in Mexico, and the Bolivarian democratic revolution at the epicenter of this process characterize a clear pattern of resistance. The Cuban Revolution, on the other hand, has managed to keep relentless US belligerence at bay only by paying a high economic, social and political toll. The US is responsible for all types of open and underground harassment toward the well-being of Cubans and against Cuba’s political and economic sovereignty.
The crisis of the PT in Brazil, however, has added a new dimension to political analysis of the region. Since being elected to office the PT has managed to adopt an independent foreign posture and has also contributed to the vast resurgence of the Latin American left. In that regard a misreading of the crisis and premature political castigation of the PT’s course of action would be premature. Without the PT and its influence in the region we might witness renewed efforts by the US to attack Latin America.
Surfing on this dynamic, social mobilization and electoral victories have propelled the left to once again strengthen its presence in several countries. These tactics have also proven that the left in most of the countries of the southern region of the continent can be creative and capable of confronting neoliberals while resisting US aggression.
It must be pointed out that in the US, George W. Bush is quickly losing support for his hostile international policies, which may materialize into another US defeat in war. The Bush anti-terrorist campaign is not paying off and this failure coincides with high oil prices that have been hitting hard vast sectors of the economy, large middle sectors and poor communities in the US. Sooner, rather than later, the US will have to retreat from Iraq and Afghanistan revealing that the age of empire has reached its expiration date.
This international context also creates new challenges for the next polycentric World Social Forum and the II Americas Social Forum, which need to address not only the big themes, but also issues related more to the region itself. Therefore, the WSF must deal with political, democratic, international and ideological concerns at its next gathering.
The last WSF realized two key improvements; one had to do with methodological innovations, which included the self-organized events, and the territorial social building of the Forum. These changes encompassed the idea of polycentrism or a decentralized forum, embedded within a main global agenda tackling the specificity of each region in which the WSF is organized. Although all of these developments represent a step forward, they also raise new challenges related to articulation, networking, convergence and outcomes for the Forum.
However, the most important question is related to the need for enhancing and deepening the political debate of the events taking place during the 2006 WSF. In that sense, one important concern is the appropriate use of the political capital of past Forums. In other words, the newly created Hemispheric Council has fully endorsed the history and the charter of the WSF, but it must also develop the goals of the WSF. The Polycentric WSF must preserve its international character, blending self-organization and co-managed practices and events, which represent the diversity of the “Political Culture of the Forum”.
The thematic axes for the next Forum illustrate a clear and unequivocal pattern of concern for neoliberalism and US aggression. The debate and discussions will focus on,
Power, politics and social emancipation
Imperial strategies and peoples’ resistance
Resources and rights for life: alternatives to the predatory civilization model
Diversity, identities and cosmo-visions (world views)
Work, exploitation and reproduction of life
Communication, culture and education
Gender and diversity were defined as transversal axes and there is concurrence in terms of strongly promoting policies of equality.
This’ year forum will be especially important since the event will take place in a country in which a ‘truly existing’ alternative is under construction, Venezuela represents today a site of resistance and struggle which is also influencing the political dynamic in the region. Attending the WSF in Caracas provides the participant in an event a double attraction; the Bolivarian Revolution and its developments and the world wide event with special emphasis on the process of building alternatives in the Americas.
The upcoming VI World Social Forum and the II Americas Social Forum already represent a step forward in terms of organization, content, expansion and politization. Its connection with the issues of the hemisphere and with the danger and challenges we are facing represents, beyond any illusion, an unmistakable development of the idea of the WSF that another world is possible and that it can be constructed in the real world!