in the last days of the forum i finally made it to the f.s.l. ("forum social libertario" – the alternative/libertarian social forum)… the official social forum was amazing, but i noticed some sharp political differences, for example when i pointed out that it was a bit wierd to be declaring that "another world is possible" from a room in the hilton hotel, where dark skinned cleaning ladies came every morning to make our beds and clean the bathroom. i found no one who agreed with me and was met instead with comments like "what, you mean in your ideal world there wouldn't be cleaning ladies!?" (duh?) so it was quite a relief to be back among people who share my world view a bit more.
the f.s.l. was small, and completely autonomous from the forum itself. there were people there from most of latin america. i missed the good talks, but the final day was a working together to produce a "libertarian communique" from the forum. it was interesting to be in the discussions, which explicitely criticised the emerging (and longer standing, e.g. castro en cuba) revolutionary movements for their personality cults and militarism. they have prodced some interesting texts that we are going to translate to english and they'll be posted on the f.s.l. website.
in the discussions there were quite a few older revolutionaries, in their 50s or older, mostly men, who dominated the meeting, talking about cuba, militarism and the personality cults, and there were young anarchos, students and activists in their mid-twenties, who brought different political ideas to the discussion. one colombian student said that there should be a clear statement against patriarchy. several of the older men showed that they had no idea what the word meant... another said that animal rights should be mentioned in the statement. he was loudly shouted down by a united block of older men (who didn't seem to agree on much, but were firmly together in that animal rights should not go in the statement) in all, the generation gap was quite stark!
more fun then writing statements, we made some actions too. with some friends from brazil, colombia and venezuela we went to with spay cans and stencils to alter the social forum banners so they read: "sin armas, sin estado, otro mundo es posible" (without guns, without the state, another world is possible). a tiny action, but it was good to make even a symbolic act against the number of guns and military that permeated the forum.
back in the real world of the social forum, chavez himself spoke at the caracas poliedro, and we watched it on t.v.... the man is a rock star! apparently he speaks to the nation a couple of times per week and maybe twice a month, when there is something important to talk about, it is compulsory viewing, with all channels showing the chavez speech... he has his own t.v. show too - "alo presidente", in the style of a chat show and throughout the streets of the forum they were selling revolutionary mercandise - chavez, che guevara and bolivar on caps, bags, flags and t-shirts. but the funniest were the dolls, a 45cm plastic chavez in military uniform, and when you push his back he makes a political speech (!!)
but despite the funniness and spectacularity of it all, i was still impressed by the speech he made. it was long (i think nearly two hours)he spoke in a really friendly, conversational style, and he sang (!) (i put the words and translation of song at end of text) and said a lot of stuff that surprised me, about the importance of grassroots social movements, autonomy, and diversity, about the new movements that came from a diversity of struggles worldwide (he specifically mentioned the anti-globalisation movements of seattle and cancun). he said he would arrest and imprison the "gringos" from multinationals who come to steal the resources of latin america. and he talked about ecology, saving the planet, learning from the ways of indigenous peoples, and finding the "peace of the butterfly" before we exterminate
ourselves as a species...
he also specifically thanked the volunteer interpreters among the list of participants who made the forum possible :o)))
and he criticised the social forum, saying that it was only his opinion, and it was for the forum, in its autonomy and diversity to consider, but that he felt it was a problem that the forum did not draw conclusions. "this is serious" he said "we are not here to waste time"...
i was instinctively very cynical, for example, in one speech he spoke of building oil lines from venezuela to the tip of patagonia and using venezuelas oil to industrialise south america and kick out the imperialist invaders. this, in almost the same breath as he talked of the finding the peace of the butterfly. and the thrust, and closing shot of the speech was quoting che guevara, "socialismo, o muerte!" (socialism, or death!). one venezuelan friend pointed out at his point that, at best, the average venezuelan would mobilise for "socialism and life" but maybe not even that...
however, even in my cynicism, i could not help but be moved, most of all by a president, head of state, making a speech that chimed so closely with my anti-state politics. even in the worst case scenario, that it is only rhetoric, it still shows a remarkable shift in the political framework, that the rhetoric of the anti-capitalist movement has permeated to such a high level... it made me think: this is serious, we are not wasting time.
back to the grassroots, the following day i was interpreting for a talk on preserving women’s wisdom. it was run by indigenous women from guatemala and ecuador, who made an altar of flowers, leaves and fruits in the middle of the stage and lit a small fire with sacred wood. they conducted a purification ritual, whilst talking about the massacres in guatemala and the project of preserving the ancient wisdom of the indigenous creation myths and sacred plants. that was another one that we were passing the mike back and forth as the other dried their tears! and at the end they called everyone down to the stage to be purified by the smoke from the fire (as the security guards for the theatre twitched and muttered about the fire alarms ;o)
here are the words to the song chavez sang. it was written by the venezeulan singer songwriter Ali Primera, who died fighting in el salvador.
al verde que yo le canto
es el color de tus maizales
no al verde de las bainas
de matanzas tropicales
los que fueron a vietnam
a quemar sus arrozales
y hoy andan por esas tierras
como andar por sus corrales
dale salvadoreno (dale!)
que no hay pajaro pequeno (dale!)
que despues de alzar al vuelo
se detenga en su volar
the green that i sing to you
is the colour of your maize fields
not the green of the gun sheaths
of the tropical massacres
of those that went to vietnam
to burn their rice fields
and now walk across these lands
like they were walking their corals
go salvadorean (go!)
because there are no small birds (go!)
that once they launch themselves to fly
can be stopped in their flight
Monday, February 13, 2006
Another email from my friend who's been translating at the World Social Forum in Venezuela: