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A luta continua

30 January 2005

An open debate on the future of the forum assembled this afternoon to find that a "Group of 19" had jumped the gun and sketched a Porto Alegre Consensus.

Participants in the debate, titled "Power relations at the WSF", were mostly unimpressed. For example, Ezequiel Adamovsky, who had spent the whole forum organising and participating in the caracol intergalactica (one of the liveliest and most networked spots at the forum), told me that he and his comrades were taken by surprise. Many felt, as he put it in when the debate started, that this was just another illustration of the capacity of NGOs with resources and money to seize the agenda away from grassroots activists (sorry if I'm mistranslating your Spanish, Ezequiel).

The lines were drawn: on the one side, many agreed with Michael Hardt, co-author Multitude (is biopolitics Empire's new clothes?), who warned against false notions of representation.  On the other Immanuel Wallerstein, one of the Consensus signatories, asked if you really want to change the world what do you propose instead of the action plan outlined in the Consensus?

Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, Hugo Chávez is down at the Gigantinho (still speaking after more than an hour and a half as I write) bringing revolutionary bling if not bang to the end of the forum. Every few minutes, his voice rises to a ringing, rolling denunciation of imperlialismo.  At one point, he sings a gentle song in praise of Che Guevara. The crowd loves every moment.

As an icon, Ernesto Guevara is hands-down favourite at the forum. Che on T shirts. Che on handbags. Che on marijuana pouches.  Che superimposed on the South American continent. His likeness outnumbers Bob Marley, Lenin, Trotsky or the Beatles by about fifty or even a hundred to one. Pictures Lula and Jesus are notable largely by their absence, although they are more common than Osama bin Laden, Ho Chi Minh and Joseph Stalin.

Can there be a green populist project on the Left?

Many on the Left want to return to a politics based on class, not populism. They point to Left populist parties not reaching their goals. But Chantal Mouffe argues that as the COVID-19 pandemic has put the need for protection from harm at the top of the agenda, a Left populist strategy is now more relevant than ever.

Is this an opportunity for a realignment around a green democratic transformation?

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Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

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