FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Porto Allegre Diary II

by JENNIFER BERKSHIRE

Porto Alegre. “Can you imagine if the left in the US looked like this?” one American activist said wistfully, watching as the opening march of the World Social Forum snaked its way through the city streets on Thursday. His envy was understandable: the parade of political parties, civil society organizations, marching bands and dancers that clogged downtown Porto Alegre for hours was a vivid, shimmying spectacle, a continent away from the dreariness that plagues most gatherings of the US left. Also absent: the tense standoffs between demonstrators and police that have marked nearly every recent globalization gathering. Local police were merely observers at this political carnival.

So what makes the Latin American left so different from its US counterpart? Median age, for starters. The youth–or “juventude” as their signs and flags read–were everywhere. They marched by country, cause and political party. They danced and drummed for communism, socialism, anarchism and everything in between. And while a small contingent of the now-infamous “Black Bloc” appeared late in the parade, it was only an obvious lack of tropical clothing that distinguished them at all.

Then there’s the rhythm thing. Even the clunkiest slogans somehow roll off the tongue when chanted in Portuguese to a samba beat (“Stop Bush US Imperialist Aggressor” was particularly catchy.)

Like previous gatherings held here, this one was about globalization, a loose gathering of folk united by a shared belief that “another world is possible,” the close to official slogan of the anti-globo movement. But what kind of world? The range of often conflicting visions was obvious. For many on the far left, it’s a socialist world, or at very least “Death to Capitalism,” as one popular sign read. For the NGO’s and issue groups, it’s a world in which capitalism is better managed, trade is fair and financial transactions taxed.

The distance between the two constituencies is immense, bridged here only by the savvy street vendors who managed to sell cerveixa, Caipirinhas and Che garb to both. The split between the revolutionaries and the reformistas is fundamental; they do not speak the same language. One group of marchers had a novel solution: Esperanto. They carried signs–in Portuguese rather than Esperanto–imploring us to speak the universal language.

If the critics of globalization who massed here are divided about the world they want, there was a single issue that united nearly everyone: the US war against Iraq. The war was the thing, opposed by all of the various political groupings, and by delegations from from some 125 countries. And while rumors of a large anti-American demonstration in the center of Porto Alegre swept through a gathering of US delegates earlier in the day, the warnings proved groundless. The US representatives carried placards opposing war too. Tacked to a telephone poll near the docks, a single sign condeming “Yankees, Jews and Nazis,” hung limply. But no one seemed to notice, not even the delegation of Argentine jews that marched through the streets urging peace, and waving the Israeli flag.

Enough about the marchers. What did ordinary Porto Alegrenses think of the spectacle? For a country that routinely shuts down for four days of carnival every February, this was no big deal: a fully-clothed preview of next month’s ritual. Still, curious onlookers were everywhere. Workers, done for the day, lined the streets, and residents watched from their balconies, some showering the crowd with homemade confetti. A group of cafeteria workers pointed and waved to the marchers from their restaurant window.

And what of the Brazilian elite, notorious for their resistance to any social and political change? They gave up the center of Porto Alegre long ago, taking to the hills that surround the city where they live behind wrought iron gates. “We will make them hear us,” said one marcher, an AIDS activist from Rio. “Even if they can’t see us, they’ll hear.”

Note: To sustain high spirits during a lengthy political gathering, a hefty shot of Cachaca, the Brazilian cane liquor is essential.

Caipirinha 1 lime quartered 1 tablespoon of sugar 1 shot of Cachaca (Brazilian cane liquor) * cup of ice cubes with water

Place the lime and sugar in the bottom of a glass. Using the handle of a wooden spoon , crush and mash the limes. Add liquor and ice. Stir well.

JENNIFER BERKSHIRE can be reached at: jenniferberkshire@hotmail.com

 

More articles by:
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
Andrew Levine
Why Not Hillary?
Paul Street
Hillary Clinton’s Neocon Resumé
Chris Floyd
Twilight of the Grifter: Bill Clinton’s Fading Powers
Eric Mann
How We Got the Tanks and M-16s Out of LA Schools
Jason Hirthler
The West’s Needless Aggression
Dan Arel
Why Hillary Clinton’s Camp Should Be Scared
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Flunks Decontamination
David Rosen
The Privatization of the Public Sphere
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Civil Rights Hypocrisy
Chris Gilbert
Corruption in Latin American Governments
Pete Dolack
We Can Dream, or We Can Organize
Dan Kovalik
Colombia: the Displaced & Invisible Nation
Jeffrey St. Clair
Fat Man Earrings: a Nuclear Parable
Medea Benjamin
Israel and Saudi Arabia: Strange Bedfellows in the New Middle East
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail