[R-G] Fight the Empire: Report from World Social Forum
pieinsky at igc.org
Sun Jan 18 09:38:13 MST 2004
Sunday January 18, 11:55 AM
Anti-globalisation movement seeks world alliance against Bush
BOMBAY (AFP) - Anti-globalisation activists
called for the world to unite against the United States as 100,000 people
from 130 countries met off a Bombay highway in the movement's first forum
since the Iraq war.
The World Social Forum, billed as a counterweight to the World Economic
Forum of business and political leaders which opens Wednesday in
Switzerland, is holding discussions and demonstrations on issues from Iraq
to child labour.
But the common thread for the diverse set of activists is opposition to US
President George W. Bush, whom forum leaders accuse of endangering world
security and bending trade rules to satisfy corporations.
"The greatest threat to peace comes from the greatest military power, which
controls the world so that a small elite can accumulate wealth while others
get poor," charged Chandra Muzaffar, a social activist from Malaysia.
"Let us form regional networks that fight this empire in just the way the
Roman empire was brought down," Muzaffar told hundreds at an ampitheatre
The World Social Forum was launched in 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, to
build on the occasionally violent protests during World Trade Organisation
negotiations in 1999 in Seattle.
Hoping to expand outside its support bases in Western Europe and Latin
America, the anti-globalisation movement switched the venue to Bombay, where
the event was organised mostly by Indian trade unionists and
Organisers said more than half of the estimated 100,000 people at the forum
were from India, even though the meeting has received little attention from
the country's government and media.
Thousands of low-caste Indian Hindus rubbed elbows with Western labour
activists, Latin American students and Tibetan monks as dozens of groups
staged impromptu concerts and theatre to push their causes during the six-
The forum opened Friday with a call by one of India's best known leftists,
the novelist Arundhati Roy, for the meeting to commit to shutting down two
US companies of their choosing that benefitted from the Iraq war.
Hoping to stress a common cause against Bush, forum organisers showcased
civil society leaders from all continents.
"The greatest threat to the world is from the US and its President Bush,"
said Keun Soo Hong, a prominent South Korean pacifist.
"If Bush comes to power again in 2004, the world would see another war in
the Korean peninsula," Keun said.
Argentinian activist Beverley Keene warned that the United States also posed
a threat in Latin America, where she said there was "another war, of hunger
Referring to Bush, corporations and international lending agencies, Keene
said: "They control the power in our world. This is real terrorism."
Despite the staunch criticism of Bush throughout the forum, organisers said
1,000 Americans were taking part and that funds from US individuals and
groups covered about one quarter of the 2.4 million-dollar budget.
Critics, including some from within the anti-globalisation movement, charge
that the World Social Forum amounts to more talk than concrete action.
The last meet in Brazil turned into a rallying ground for protests against
an invasion of Iraq which was launched just over two months later.
Iranian rights activist Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace laureate who
helped inaugurate the forum, said Iraq was "one of the most important"
issues facing the world, but stressed the Bombay meet should also seek to
ensure universal protection of human rights and to ease poverty.
Meanwhile, some 2,000 far-leftists organised a rival forum, the Mumbai
Resistance, across the road, vowing to come up with proposals more radical
than the policy initiatives mulled at the World Social Forum.
"They are infiltrated by imperialist agents," said Rona Wilson, co-organiser
of the Mumbai Resistance.
"These French ministers come to the WSF while France is responsible for 60
percent of the African debt," he said.
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