January 27, 2009, saw the opening of the World Social Forum in the Brazilian city of Belem, which coincided with the annual meeting in Davos held by the World Economic Forum that brings together superpowers and institutions that play an important role in the global economy.
It is obvious that these two events this year will focus on the global economic crisis that has devastated the international economy and continues to demand radical, practical solutions in order to avoid anything worse than what we have already witnessed.
If the goal of the capitalist forum is to solve the dilemma of the separation of financial liquidity from the real production economy by instituting regulatory mechanisms (since this separation is the reason for the current crisis), then the Social Forum, which is also known as the Forum of Porto Alegre, believes that the current crisis is objective proof of the failure of global capitalism, and the growing need for a social alternative that the organisation calls for through its slogan: ‘Another world is possible.’
If the capitalist academics and experts today exert prompt efforts to save the capitalist model in the same way that [John Maynard] Keynes and others did in the 1930s, which is reflected in the flood of diagnostic and business literature that has emerged these days, then the alternative anti-globalization trend is still fragile and an ambiguous theoretical discourse. Therefore, it is difficult to talk about harmony or a dynamic, ideological alternative.
It is well known that this trend began modestly in the early 1980s in two ways: an ecological version by environmental groups in Europe and America, and a social formula by groups calling for the cancellation of debts that burden the poor countries of the South. This trend strengthened in the 1990s and led its greatest demonstration in the American city of Seattle in 1999. The trend for an alternative to globalization is split into four main groups which are:
1 – Traditional Socialist and Communist organizations, which have sharply declined in terms of representatives in the political field, just as its original ideology has collapsed and found a new framework in the anti-neoliberalism discourse for mobilization and communication with social movements outside the framework of control.
2 – Environmental organizations whose discourse has developed in recent years to be more than just a stand against industrial pollution and into a radical critique of the capitalist development model, which is based on accumulation, growth, and the intensification of production, considering it a project for the destruction of nature, and the control of humanity, and the reduction of man to a consumer with no control over his own destiny.
3 – National trends dedicated to sovereignty and national identity against the dynamics of globalization that threaten national entities and cultures for the basis of economic viability and the necessities and requirements of global trade.
4 – Trends protecting local cultures and ways of life that are threatened by extinction. These have a strong presence in Latin America.
Even though this activity has not crystallized an agreed, regular theoretical discourse, it feeds off numerous channels; for example, Italian philosopher Antonio Negri, who sought to renew the communist model through contemporary ideological apparatus in relation to the challenges of globalisation. He believed that that this presented a new opportunity to eliminate capitalism, which does not have a core or vital sphere and no longer relies upon a dominant social class. American linguist Noam Chomsky criticised cultural and media hegemony and its role in formulating awareness and creating opinion, and the contributions of the post-colonial school of sociology in criticism of Western models of development as an expression of constrained cultural centralism, not perceptions and opinions of a global objective, (this is why this school has a strong presence in India, Africa and Latin America).
It might be valid to link the new socialist models that have emerged in South America, most notably Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia, to the alternative globalisation movement to which they say they belong. However, it is too early to know if these experiences of radical populism reflect a qualitative shift within Latin America or whether they represent one of the manifestations of the crises of transition, from totalitarian military regimes to stable, pluralistic democracies, which these countries are experiencing.