Article by Gustave Massiah, March 25, 2018
The World Social Forum of Salvador de Bahia took place from March 13 to 17, 2018. The watchword was “Resist is create, resist is transform”. This forum had three dimensions: a successful Bahian forum, a Brazilian forum determined by the situation in Brazil and Latin America, an international forum focused on the global situation and the future of the forums.
The Forum was very followed. Between walking and activities, there were an estimated between 50,000 and 80,000 participants. They came massively from Bahia and Brazil. As is the case in all forums, most participants come from the country and the region. There were participants from 120 countries. Especially from Latin America, with some other strong delegations (Germany, Spain, France, Morocco, Quebec, Switzerland). Several African movements were represented. There were Asian movements in small numbers (India, China, Nepal, Japan, Indonesia, …). There were nearly 2000 activities, referenced around 19 thematic axes.
The Bahia WSF took place in an electric atmosphere. Happy and enthusiastic at first, tragic after the assassination of Marielle Franco. The Forum was driven by the enthusiasm of the Bahian movements whose very well captured energy can be measured in the first video of ShareCsympa.
Three major movements carried the Forum: the women’s movement; the Afro-Brazilian movement; the movement of traditional peoples. The women’s movement in Latin America has taken enormous importance with huge protests on March 8 in many countries, including Argentina. The Women’s Assembly, an exclusive activity from the morning of March 16th was a considerable moment (see the video of episode 4, the revolution will be feminist). The Afro-Brazilian movement has been very structuring. It carries a more general claim, that of the refusal of discrimination and racism. The movement of the traditional peoples was very present, bringing the convergence between the indigenous peoples and the Afro-Brazilian peoples. There was also a very strong presence of youth movements and student movements for the free of charge University.
The World Social Forum remains the main meeting place for the movements for debate on the international situation. Even if, in recent years, it is no longer the central place for the challenge to neoliberalism and must face a new era of globalization.
The discussion on the world situation
The discussion has covered through many channels the world situation. It is still too early to follow all approaches; they will emerge in time through the various international networks that will retain elements and pass them on.
There is a rather general agreement on the characterization of the period as that of a counter-revolution, and even that of several counter-revolutions. This counter-revolution puts forward racist, xenophobic, and security ideologies. It designates as scapegoats in all countries of the world foreigners and migrants. It is based on Islamist, Hindu, and evangelical conservatisms.
Some activities have been working on the current moment of neoliberalism, starting from the sequence opened by Trump’s election. The evolution of neoliberalism mixes austerity and authoritarianism, an “austeritary” political category. Several questions were raised: what evolution of free trade and new contradictions of capitalism? What new geopolitical contradictions with the wars in progress and the increased risks of war?
Several activities, particularly on Latin America, have addressed the question of the limits and contradictions of the movements that claimed to be left wing and the governments that emerged from it. If policies against poverty and inequality have been recognized, the limits must be measured, particularly on the issue of discrimination. And also measure the limits and dangers of alliances that go through the acceptance of leadership by the dictates of multinational corporations and international financial institutions. Productivist, extractivist and rentier export policies of raw materials have shown their harmfulness and their limits.
The situation of the movements