FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Porto Alegre Diary IV, Another Left is Possible

by JENNIFER C. BERKSHIRE

Porto Alegre. In the waning days of any large anti-globalization event, talk turns naturally to accomplishments: what is it we’ve done here and where do we go next? To this end, reams of documents (fondly referred to as “documentados”) have been produced, proposals proposed, methodologies reviewed and offical texts released. But the real accomplishment of this, the third World Social Forum, is not to be found in these words, translated into multiple languages. The magic of this gathering has been far more ethereal, the kind of spark and energy produced when some 100,000 people come together around an idea.

What was created here was a kind of civil society, a term so often bandied about–abused really–but rarely experienced. The overwhelming majority of people who came to Porto Alegre were not seasoned veterans of the anti-globalization circuit (most were attending their first social forum). Nor were they political movers and shakers. They came here out of curiousity and to explore a possibility. People packed into theaters to hear streamed testimony from newly-freed death row inmates in Illinois. They crammed into classrooms to learn about the war on Iraq, the privatization of water, and what globalization will mean for them.

It may sound vague (“simpleminded” was the description that one American lent to the event) ; far more time was devoted to talking about demands than to figuring out how to make them. But for once, the phrase “another world is possible” seemed like more than trite globo talk; we were watching it unfold here. As in the US, much of public life in Brazil has been eroded by privatization, income inequality and a relentless process of malling. There are few places where ordinary Brazilians of all walks of life can simply go to mingle together. “Public life has moved behind walls and gates,” explained my friend Gianpaolo, a sociologist who grew up in Porto Alegre and now lives in the US. For five days, though, Brazilians and the people who’d traveled from countries all over the world to join them took that world back.

Not everyone in attendance was satisfied with the breezy solidarity that ruled the day. Some in the crowd wanted rigor, lots and lots of rigor. On the Brazilian left, the award for “best display of militancy”goes to the PSTU, or the United Socialist Workers Party. The party held hourly rallies during the forum condeming Bush and Sharon and effectively utilizing the march as just another means of transportation. The PSTU also had one of the best chants of the entire event, roughly translated as ‘Bush, assassin, go back to the place where your whore of a mother gave birth to you.’

From the North American left, the demands for diiscipline came from the Life After Capitalism contingent, a forum within the forum organized by Michael Albert and Z Magazine. While elsewhere in Porto Alegre, attendees were preoccupied with merely describing the world, Life After Capitalism was intended to present the way forward: a systematic exploration of what we want and how we can get it. The highlight of the gathering was to be a debate amongst political perspectives including socialism, anarchism, participatory democracy, and something called “par polity.” I sided with that, having never heard of it before.

But due to organizational snafus–namely that official forum information included nothing on the Life After Capitalism confab–few seemed to know how to find the way forward. Early sessions took place in cavernous auditoriums, while the sessions on political visions and the much anticipated debate took place in a location no one connected with official event seemed ever to have heard of.

Meanwhile, life during capitalism continued apace. Tens of thousands of forumistas milled about on the campus of Porto Alegre’s Catholic University, temporary home to perhaps the world’s single largest collection of leftist swag. Che’s visage could be seen everywhere, adorning tiny t-shirts and halter tops, buttons and berets. Lula was just as popular. Beautiful women tied their hair back with PT headscarves; their boyfriends wore the number 13, signifying the PT’s spot on the electoral ballot.

“There are so many attractive people on our side here,” mused one labor activist friend, taking in the scene. I nodded and pointed out that it wasn’t just the model good looks shared by so many of the “juventud” that distinguished the crowd from a left gathering in the US, but that so many people were smiling. “Do you think another left is possible?” he asked as we prepared to head north. “I hope so,” I said. “I really hope so.”

Jennifer Berkshire can be reached at: jenniferberkshire@hotmail.com.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail