FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Porto Alegre Diary IV, Another Left is Possible

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:
Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail