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January 29, 2007

January 24th, Day four

This year the organizers of the WSF introduced “Day Four,” where groups associated with each of 21 themes met together to share what they had learned and to bring final statements to the general assembly. In concept, it’s a beautiful idea, a great way to digest what had occurred in the previous three days and to focus into a final statement that everyone could associate with.

Of course, anyone who has worked with a group of more than one person to write something together knows that it’s hard! So how do you organize 100,000 people? And to do in a *completely* open space? Chaos.

I went to the “Social Movements Assembly” that morning. It started an hour late. And then there were microphone troubles. And then they had to figure out translation services. In the meantime, the South Africans (who were about half the crowd) took over and started singing and dancing! I must say, it was a nice way to start the assembly…

The meeting itself could have been better organized. It was once again facing the tension of keeping it open to all versus someone taking a lead in creating structure. But if someone had created structure, others may have felt too controlled. So, as it was, anyone was allowed to speak about anything ranging from what they thought about social movements to how to structure the afternoon assembly (or this one now) to what to say in the final assembly. And so of course, the gamut of things got shared, and time ran out, and we didn’t really come to any conclusions, and still only a handful of people were able to speak.

The only person who suggested a more structured structure to the assembly was an American woman, but no one responded.

Click here for snippets of people's remarks...

South African man: We must put our stamp on the WSF, we must shape it. We must fight against the commercialization and the bourgeoisies of the WSF. The Kenyans must be able to come in for free.

Brazilian man (speaking in Portuguese): We need to discuss that the Kenyans have not been given space.

West African woman (speaking in French): We need a different kind of forum [not much more detail given]

Bolivian man (speaking in Spanish): From Via Campesina… we have been fighting the capitalist movement, we came to social movements from the resistance side… I bring a message from our president… we need to approve a Solidarity Declaration for countries in the struggle. Our comrades in Oaxaca have requested a document of solidarity. !Hasta la victoria siempre!

West African woman (speaking in French): we struggle against the US and the IMF. We fight our own government. We want a fair world. We need the energy of the women now, not to oppress us.

Kenyan man: we must include the youth

Basque man: we must assimilate each group’s needs. We need a day of action in 2008… we need to decide on a date and form of action. We need to organize information between us, to have a small working group for information systems.

South African man: we need an anti-privitization forum. The working class must regain confidence. We must build our underground and resist.

German man: in June the G8 will meet and discuss the world economy and Africa is the focus. Africa is the key issue now. We are here to learn from Africans what issues we should put forward in our protests and declarations.

Woman: we must include debates on abortion. And we must fight the large international commercial campaigns led by NGOs who are manipulating the discourse. People who can afford microphones and who can get here are the ones who get to speak. We must have a very intense struggle within the WSF.

South African man: On the issue of commercialization, we need to kick out Celtel!! [Celtel is the local cell phone company who has completely plastered all of Nairobi, and the WSF with booths, shops and billboards.]

South African man from the Landless Peoples Movement: we need a position on land. We should review the past declarations and show how we have moved forward. How do we measure if we are winning the battle of capitalism?


Orion said...

I believe that a lack of structure decreases the ability of many people to participate.

It diminishes real dialogue and learning.

It cripples the potential of the "movement of movements."

That the organizers of the WSF have been unable and/or unwilling to find a legitimate means to provide more structure is an indication of how badly organized global civil society. The chaos of the WSF is both a cause and a symptom of "people's powerlessness".

Beyond the immediate thrill of everyone getting together, the ultimate message is one of disempowerment. Our adversaries watch with relief.

Jenny Leis said...

Well said, Orion!