Porto Alegre, Brazil: Leftists are pouring into town to rail against freewheeling capitalism during the World Social Forum (WSF), gleefully cheering the humbling of bankers and business titans by the global economic meltdown.
At the opening of the five-day event, some 25,000 activists paraded exuberantly through Porto Alegre on Monday, serenaded by the pounding of drums and salsa blared from sound trucks as they waved communist flags and shouted slogans against corporate greed.
The 10-year-old conference is the Left’s counter to the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos.
The WSF draws people with a wide range of causes, from demanding total state control of nations’ petroleum reserves to seeking environmental preservation and animal rights.
Banner of protest: Activists at the World Social Forum in Brazil. Silvia Izquierdo / AP
Activists said this year’s forum is especially important because governments from the US to Europe are moving to take on bigger roles in managing the global economy.
“Lingering fallout from the financial crisis is proof that the world economy must be retooled to benefit people, not big companies,” said Francisco Whitaker, who helped found the WSF. “Leftists are increasingly energized by the prospect of persuading governments to tackle corporate excess and spread more wealth to the needy,” he said.
“We’re in the midst of true enthusiasm,” Whitaker said.
The WSF serves as a platform for Leftists to exchange ideas, though no proposals are formed following days of debate. Instead, participants are expected to take strategies back to their home countries and push for change locally.
“While the economic crisis provided a perfect platform for advancing Leftist movements, many failed to grasp the opportunity when the slump was at its worst,” said Nandita Shah, co-director of India’s Akshara Centre, which supports women’s rights.
“I think there’s a crisis in the Left and in our voice,” she said. “I hope these five days will bring us out of this visionless tunnel.”