Lula puts wind in our sails

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
30 October 2002

Here at openDemocracy we are about to leave our ‘pilot’ period and launch the ‘full model’. The moment is fraught with danger as American power is being exercised in a way that makes intelligent global debate all the more essential. But who wants dialogue when everyone is feeling fatalistic and impotent?

For us, therefore, the fact that Lula will soon enjoy the bitter-sweet world of power as President of Brazil is doubly welcome. It is great that a massive and wealthy country disfigured by the most grotesque inequality should finally elect a leader dedicated to closing the gap and improving the life of the poor. That’s the main thing. Here at openDemocracy it makes us feel that our aspirations for a fairer and more democratic world have become more plausible. The scale of Lula’s triumph signals the depth of popular rejection of plutocratic, oil-lubricated, election-rigging, military supremacy. Not just among people in Brazil but everywhere – including many of America’s own citizens, as Bob Borosage shows in his moving tribute to Paul Wellstone, who died in the course of his campaign to be re-elected to the US Senate.

Wellstone’s politics have a parallel to Lula’s. Despite all the efforts of the media to suggest otherwise, they belong to the future. President Lula is not a throwback. He may have pre-existed the ‘third way’, but he also represents a response to the consequences of an uncritical embrace of the market and the inability of ‘third way’ politics to pioneer new public interest approaches to the failure of state centralism.

Now he has to face the consequences of the IMF’s defence of the global financial system, which puts itself before the well being of national economies, however large.

The World Social Forum has been in the forefront of opposition to the IMF and it was from the city of Porto Alegre run by Lula’s Workers Party, that it first challenged the ‘Washington Consensus’. In preparation for the next year’s gathering, regional forums are being prepared. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi is trying to prevent the European one from being held in Florence next week.

openDemocracy will be there to report and debate its progress. As we do so, our new website will come on line. It will deliver a greatly improved and easy-to-use website, with expanded editorial coverage: both designed to make participation more welcoming.

We have a vision of a truly global network dedicated to high-quality and truthful exchange of ideas, experience and information, essential to closing the distance between people and power - in all its forms. We have developed ways of achieving this, with well-edited contested exchanges, designed to help people make up their minds for themselves. A growing team of external editors and columnists anchored by the London office is committed to deliver openDemocracy. With your help – your criticism, your donations, your participation, and your telling your friends to sign on – we will succeed.

Anthony Barnett

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