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The debates ahead for the World Social Forum

January 19, 2007 | Page 10

DENNIS BRUTUS is a world-renowned South African poet and anti-apartheid campaigner who was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela in the 1960s. In the 1990s, he became a leading voice in the global justice movement and the World Social Forum (WSF). This year's WSF takes place in Kenya this month. Dennis wrote to Socialist Worker to offer his perspective on the upcoming conference.

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THE WORLD Social Forum starting in Nairobi, Kenya, January 20 looks to be a major event that will have an impact on African and global affairs. As many as 100,000 are expected; there will certainly be more than 50,000.

The usual problems are expected, as they were at the previous World Social Forums in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and Mumbai, India, and the smaller-scale polycentric forums last year in Bamako, Mali; Caracas, Venezuela; and Karachi, Pakistan. Some of these are probably unavoidable--arranging places to stay, transportation, inadequate technology, etc.

What else to read

A collection of Dennis Brutus' poems, articles, speeches and memoirs spanning 50 years of struggle can be found in Poetry & Protest: A Dennis Brutus Reader, edited by Lee Sustar and Aisha Karim.

Patrick Bond's latest book, Looting Africa: the Economics of Exploitation, provides an overview of neoliberalism and imperialism in Africa today. An edited volume, Fanon's Warning: A Civil Society Reader on the New Partnership for Africa's Development, provides other left-wing criticisms of the free-market agenda.

Bond has written several books on politics and society in South Africa, including Elite Transition: from Apartheid to Neoliberalism in South Africa and Talk Left, Walk Right: South Africa's Frustrated Global Reforms.


Still, this is likely to be an event of global significance and an important component in the worldwide movement to try to create a better world; building on the Zapatista slogan, Another World is Possible.

Many of the discussions and panels--about 1,000 of them over five days--will focus on globalization--sometimes, more broadly, imperialism, or American imperialism. Others will center on corporate globalization, with a focus on more specific aspects of the globalization process.

Crucial--and more controversial--debates will focus on the nature of the Forum itself and on its future. Will it continue to be--as its critics call it--a talk shop? Or, as some insist, is it time for it to become a body that also takes decisions and engages in action?

Other burning issues that need to be discussed are U.S military action in Africa, Africa's increasing importance in oil wars, and the troubling complicity of African governments in U.S. action in Africa. Another urgent topic is the AIDS pandemic that is devastating Africa--with a serious failure to act in South Africa and elsewhere in the continent.

In any case, bringing the message of "Another World is Possible" to Africa will be of significance to the continent and the world. The world will never be the same again.

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