By Berta Joubert-Ceci and John Catalinotto from Porto Alegre, Brazil
Of the 150,000 to 200,000 people who attended this year`s World Social Forum, which took place here in Brazil from Jan. 26 to Jan. 31, some 95 percent in one way or another showed their solidarity with the struggle of the Iraqi resistance to push the U.S. occupation out of Iraq.
The assembly of social movements endorsed the call for demonstrations March 19-20 with the common slogan: "Troops out of Iraq now! No more wars!" Groups were urged to hold actions in their own countries.
By far the overwhelming majority of this year`s participants were from Brazil. There were many young people, especially young women. Since the rules were changed to allow people to register as individuals, there were tens of thousands who were not themselves members of organizations or political activists. This gave a different character to this fifth World Social Forum.
Among the bigger public political events at the WSF were appearances in a local sports arena on two different days by Brazilian President Lula da Silva and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Both drew big, enthusiastic crowds, and Chávez especially stole the hearts of those at the forum, with the crowd overflowing outside the arena.
Support for the Iraqi struggle showed not only in organized meetings and demonstrations, but also in the reaction to leaflets. The International Action Center had prepared an appeal to the WSF to (1) support demonstrations March 19 worldwide, (2) extend political support to the Iraqi resistance, and (3) call for the United States to end the occupation immediately and unconditionally.
Wherever this leaflet was distributed, it met an overwhelmingly positive response. This was also true at a demonstration on Jan. 30, the day of the Iraqi elections. People along the route cheered the calls for solidarity with the resistance.
Naturally in such a vast happening as the WSF, there is no way a few people could see and report on everyone`s attitude. The IAC delegation was mostly concentrated in those areas of the WSF concerned with either anti-occupation actions or struggles in solidarity with Cuba and Venezuela, in support of the workers` struggles throughout Latin America and the world, and against Plan Colombia.
Worldwide support for Iraqi struggle
Nevertheless, even a sample of the events gave a picture.
On Jan. 26, the opening day of the forum, according to the local press, 200,000 people marched through downtown Porto Alegre. Many of the banners brought atten tion to the occupation of Iraq, calling for its end or for solidarity with the resistance.
An important meeting took place on Jan. 27. CEBRAPAZ, a recently formed Brazilian anti-war organization supported by the Communist Party of Brazil, held a meeting of 1,000 people with speakers from all over the world on this important issue.
While not the only question under discussion, the occupation of Iraq was central. Nearly all the speakers saluted the heroic struggle by the resistance, all to cheers from the audience.
Those organizations that had called the demonstration on Feb. 15, 2003, when 10 million people came out all over the world in an attempt to stop the war on Iraq, also met during the WSF. People raised a number of proposals, but the central one was to hold demonstrations worldwide on March 19-20 to end the occupation of Iraq.
The groups represented included the British Stop the War Coalition, the anti-war movement in Italy and anti-war networks in Mexico. From the United States both the International Action Center and United for Peace and Justice were present.
A survey showed that groups in 25 countries from all continents had already set plans for protest on that day. This action was then proposed to the entire WSF for approval.
On Jan. 30, the day of the so-called election in occupied Iraq, an ad-hoc alliance of Brazilian groups, Iraqi spokespeople and some European and U.S. groups held a march of about 500 people in the WSF area--which extended for about two miles--in solidarity with the Iraqi resistance. This too got cheers and thumbs up along the way.
The main speakers at this action were Iraqis Sami Alaa of the Iraq Patriotic Alliance and Shaik Jawad al-Khalesi, a renowned Muslim scholar and the leader of a multi-party coalition boycotting the elections in Iraq. Both denounced the elections as illegal and only serving to justify the occupation.
Al-Khalesi had been taking part in many of the individual forums and seminars held around the WSF on Iraq, along with other Iraqis who oppose the occupation. The only objection to a call for "immediate withdrawal" of troops or of support for the resistance came from people from North America or Europe who were connected to pacifist or openly social-democratic organizations.
The `South` supports action
From the oppressed countries, which at this forum meant mainly Brazil and the rest of Latin America, there was nearly 100-percent support for the Iraqi resistance and for the demonstrations of March 19-20.
For example, at an important meeting of union leaders from the World Fed eration of Trade Unions, there was support for the IAC call for March 19 actions. Ubiraci Oliveira, the vice president of the General Confederation of Brazilian Workers, said he endorsed the March 19 actions and that his unions would discuss holding a march in Sao Paolo on that date.
With Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Vene zuela, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Thai land, South Korea, Turkey, Philippines, Iraq and Palestine among the list of countries with groups supporting March 19-20 actions, it seemed likely that this series of protests would get a higher percentage of support from the countries that were colonies-- from what is called the "South"-- than was true on Feb. 15 and March 15, 2003.
The other countries where groups are already organizing are the United States, Italy, Greece, Ireland, Japan, Britain, Macedonia, Cyprus, Australia, Hungary, Poland, Canada, Austria, Spain, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
Whatever happens on that day, there was a general consensus among the more revolutionary forces at the WSF that the Iraqi resistance had not only tied down the Pentagon in Iraq, stopping further invasions, but had encouraged further struggle throughout the world. The Iraqis have shown that it was possible to prevent a victory for U.S. imperialism--and it is up to the rest of the world to help them drive the United States all the way out of Iraq.
Joubert-Ceci and Catalinotto attended the WSF representing the International Action Center.
Reprinted from the Feb. 10, 2005, issue of Workers World newspaper