Report from Porto Alegre

Report 1
Hi all,

Some of you suggested it would be useful to have daily reports from the Social Forum that I am currently attending, so I will try my best to do so. Please respond to me with any inquiry, request, suggestion, etc. that you may have.

The Thematic Social Forum (part of the World Social Forum) is focused on ‘Capitalist Crisis and Social and Environmental Justice’ this year. I am participating in the theme which is looking ‘Towards Rio+20 – of the peoples’. It officially opened yesterday with a well attending march. The three main themes being explored are: (i) Are we facing a new historical moment in our struggle(s)?; (ii) Capitalist crisis and green alternatives; and (iii) Real Democracy Now and the Occupy Movement.

There are participants from movements from all over the world, especially from here in Brazil and Latin America. For example, big social movements such as the MST and Via Campesina, as well as activists from the Chilean Student Movement, Occupy Wall St, Tunisia, and many many more.

Today I participated in the following event:

–          Discussion: Are we facing a new historical moment? With participants from Focus on the Global South, Magreb Social Forum, CRID France, MST Brasil, CUT Brasil. (Today)

It was a panel discussion, which I suggested when I spoke was not the ideal Occupy format for doing things, but participated nevertheless (as an individual of course), and stressed how keen we our to forge international links, in particular with the global south from which we are always learning so much about our struggle. Afterwards I was swamped by a flurry of Brasilian journalists who asked me too many questions to remember, but they were really interested in the occupy movement. Also, I managed to speak and get contacts from lots of Brasilian activists, who are very happy that we are striking capitalism in the centre of the empire and our excited about future dialogue. There were lots of cameras filming so I will try and find a link later (possibly here http://www.youtube.com/FSTematico2012 or somewhere on here:http://www.fstematico2012.org.br/index.php?link=1)

The most important day for Occupy is Friday which is dedicated to the theme of Indignados/Occupy. There will be numerous activists present from occupy and real democracy now groups, as well as the Palestine social forum, Chilean students, Brasilean anonymous, and others. There will be two sessions – one on ‘Real democracy now’, and the other looking at the Occupy movement.

The main things it seems worth getting out of this forum for Occupy is making contacts with diverse groups, particularly in the global south. Numerous ideas are also being discussed, to which I will try and provide an Occupy context (although of course not speaking for Occupy) – future international gatherings and world social forums: in particular discussions over whether Tunisia feels able to host this year or next (whether a World Social Forum or something else); convergences this summer and next year generally, though the world social forum process; and central to all discussion is the Rio+20 gathering in June which seeks to have numerous large peoples assemblies, and they want us to participate (this will hopefully be a point of discussion for us when I am back in the UK)

I will try to update with more info as the sessions properly get going, and please get in contact regarding anything.

Solidarity,

Sam

Report 2

Hi all,

I hope you are all doing well over there, hanging on in whilst we wait for eviction news/actions….

The forum in Porto Alegre is going well, with talks and discussions on a huge variety of topics. The main updates from me are the following:

–          Have been attending/participating in events along with indignados from Spain, activists from Greece (including their own form of occupy movement), OWS, Palestine, Tunisia, and of course many other movements including especially Latin America, such as the Chilean student movement. They have generally been loose discussions around our own experiences, and thinking broadly about what connects all of our struggles. Most importantly, I have continued making lots of links and contacts which will no doubt be very important to us as a movement.

–          Perhaps one of the best experiences here for me personally so far has been linking up with the local Occupy Porto Alegre group. They have been holding a smallish occupation in the central square (the main square with government/legislative buildings) for over a month now. I have spent some time talking with them, and helping them with local outreach (it has been amazing seeing the local businessmen and politicians walking past, and then come in and enquire and ask how they can help the occupy movement). They are an autonomous group, like all of occupy, and decided not to participate directly in the forum. I asked them if I could be any help, if we could do anything together, and we have organised an event for tomorrow in the occupation in which myself, and other occupiers and indignants from around the world will share our experiences and exchange ideas with each other. One of the things I will discuss in more details there are the international platforms and forms of communication that we are using/could use together.

–          Finally, today I will be participating in a panel discussion on Occupy along with OWS (which we will turn into a more open discussion with everyone else). This will be a great opportunity to get feedback and exhcnage ideas with movement here, in particular in Brazil, about the occupy movement.

Apart from these points, more informal conversations have continued with regard to in what way occupy may want to engage, if at all, with the world social forum process, and also in particular the Rio +20 peoples assemblies. These are open questions, and if anything more concrete is ever proposed, it will certainly be something for me to bring back and discuss in London.

Solidaridade,

Sam

Report 3

Hi All,

This will be my penultimate update from Porto Alegre Brazil where I have been participating in the thematic social forum, as well as other autonomous activities. The last 2 days have been full of great experiences so I will try and provide a concise summary of the most important points.

Since I last updated you on Thursday, I have participated in two more panels in the forum itself, one on ‘indignados’ and another on ‘occupy’. Both of them had activists from across latin America, as well as indignados from Spain, OWS, activists from the Arab Spring, and many others. It has been great to share experiences and in particular receive questions from others about what occupy is, as well as hearing what it means to them. Perhaps one of the most common questions, and critiques, of Occupy has been the age old question ‘how can you change the world without taking power’. One of my most consistent answers, in particular from the perspective of my experiences in Occupy London, has been to highlight the diversity of politics and tactics of individuals in the occupy movement. I have stated that, as individuals, Occupy consists of revolutionaries, and reformists, Communists, Anarchists, and Socialists, Capitalists and anti-capitalists, those that want to work with the state and those that seek to abolish it. It seems that our diversity is our strength, and that we have a lot to learn from the factions that developed in the alter-globalisation movement, and the world social forum process and how to avoid making the same mistakes!

I also participated in a very lively discussion at the youth camp here, which is a large camp full of political discussions, music, food cooperatives, where a lot of the youth movements from Brazil have converged. Instead of talking about occupy, I asked them a series of questions (temperature checks) based on conceptions of occupy (i.e. use your hands to show me how much you agree with the following: occupy is about changing the world; its about political parties; its about violence; etc). It was great to see all their responses and I wish I had some better way of recording it all. The youth were very inspired by all the occupy/indignant movements they told us, and hoped to continue the spirit in Brazil.

This leads me to the final, and perhaps most important experience for me personally here, which has been spending time with Occupy Porto Alegre. They are a relatively small (around 30-40 activists) and autonomous group who, now in their third time occupying, have been there for over a month. Today I helped organise a gathering with other occupiers, indignants, and activists from the arab spring to exchange our experiences and ideas about the occupy movement. It was a really great experience, with long exchanges about the role of women, ethnic minorities, the environment, health and diseases, and the role of autonomy and self-management in the movement. I learned so much from them, and was so excited to see that many, perhaps the majority, of them were women (the social forum is quite male lead). I told them of the patriarchal problems that we have in London, and so did OWS, and one girl suggested forming an international occupy women’s collective. I said I am sure people in London would like to participate! More concretely, I got a list of emails from people involved in the occupation movement in Brazil as well as around the world, which I will bring back with me.

I also visited a cooperative/occupied building which is run by an autonomous collective called ‘Utopia and Struggle’, The have around 90 people living there, as well as a solidarity economy through their bakery, laundrette, t-shirt printing, organic rooftop farm (that feeds over half the building!), and ‘direct action theatre collective’. They have been there for 7 years, and are very much in support of the occupy movement. It was really inspiring to see them, and think about the ways in which different autonomous collectives can work together with occupy whilst maintaining their own independence. On this last point, I also spent some time discussing with occupiers here what it may mean to have a global movement for them, and this idea of self-managed autonomous groups supporting each other horizontally seemed like the common thread of discussion. Finally, I have spent the last hour discussing the possibilities of helping them occupy a building, which they were inspired from our experiences about, and which I would love to help them out with (not least being a delegate of the social forum would give some political protection at first, or at least may help…)

Tonight I am meeting the secretary for human rights in brazil (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_do_Rosario) – please see long thread about this in the main email list, in which I seek to ask her what she will do about the human rights abuses against occupy, and how she will guarantee the wellbeing of all occupations in Brazil (I really do not like engaging with governments at all, but others in the group seemed keen for this conversation so I will tread carefully, and of course, am meeting informally and only as an individual).

Well, that’s all for now. Massive love and solidarity from here, and keep up the hard work in London

Source: email from the London International Commission.

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