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(en) Venezuela, Another take on The Alternative Social Forum in Caracas: Voices from the Left

Date Mon, 06 Feb 2006 17:37:05 +0200

In Caracas, Venezuela between the 23rd and 29th of January 2006,
10 local socio-political organizations offered an alternative forum and
critique of national politics in response to the World Social Forum.
The result was a smaller-scale event but self-directed and reflective
of current self-organizing capacity. The alternative forum was
independent, self-managed and borne out of years of experience of
organizing in the Venezuelan context.
The Foro Social Alternativo (Alternative Social Forum – ASF)
confronted the progressive institutionalization of the World Social
Forum that has spelled its degeneration over half a decade of
development. This bureaucratization of the WSF is contrary to its
genesis and original principles, which spoke of a convergence of
diverse and contradictory movements, a “movement of
movements”. At its current stage, the WSF is serving to catapult
and legitimize a series of leaders, governments, institutions, NGOs
and leftist political parties with relatively large economic power and
resources; this has the effect of furthering these interests and
marginalizing more radical and “minority” movements. One
of the priorities of the Alternative Social Forum was to generate an
autonomous space to develop and interrelate various local
movements, whose diverse subjectivities offer alternative visions to
the imposed discourse and Manichaeism that has characterized
Venezuela in recent years.

The ASF took place in three venues in the city of Caracas: the
Universidad Central de Venezuela, the Colegio de Ingenieros and the
Organizacion Nelson Garrido, and involved three types of activities:
conferences, practical workshops and an independent film series.
Activities were diverse and kaleidoscopic. The conferences involved
a diversity of international speakers who shared their experiences
and visions. Among these speakers was John Holloway who directed
a talk on “Changing the World Without Taking Power” to an
enthusiastic audience whose subsequent debate lasted over 4 hours.
Other talks included: Daniel Barret (Uruguay) on “Horizons of
Change in Latin America”, Ezequiel Adamovsky (Argentina) on
“New Social Movements and Anti-Capitalism in the 21st
Century”, Frank Fernandez (Cuba) on “Anarquism in
Cuba”, Christian Guerrero (USA) on “Radical Ecology in the
USA”, Javier Garate (Chile) and Andreas Speck (UK) on
“The Relationship Between the Arms Race and Transnational
Corporations”, Radical Critique (Brazil) on “Leftist Politics
in Latin America”, Ricardo Garcia (Mexico) on “Autonomy
and Magonismo in Mexico”, Rob Block (USA) on “The
Anti-Prison Movement in the USA” and Kristina Dunaeva
(Russia) on“The Chechnyan War and Anti-Militarism in

The local contribution was no less impressive, opening events
included a conference with Domingo Alberto Rangel on “Islamic
Fundamentalism and Globalization”. Humberto Decarli
conducted a discussion on “Militarism and Social Change in
Venezuela”. Maria Pilar Garcia and the Amigransa collective
hosted an eclectic day-long panel discussion on current ecological
and indigenous struggles in Venezuela and the world. The Anarchist
Black Cross of Venezuela organized a forum on prisons in the
country. Others included: Francisco Prada on “External Invasion
and the Integrationist Response”, Ricardo Benaim on
“Xenophobia and Anti-semitism”, Lenin Ovalles on
“Urban Culture” and Alfredo Vallota on “Foundations of
Socialism in the 21st Century”. Participants lamented the
absence of Douglas Bravo, whose dialogue on “Proposals for
Today and the Future” had to be suspended due to family

º Workshops for Activists

The workshops of the ASF shared a variety of tools for change
among social movements and were realized by volunteer efforts by a
variety of organizations. A two-day long “Introduction to
Videoactivism” workshop was repeated on demand of
enthusiasts; it was facilitated by Sonya Angelica Diehn and
co-funded by Indymedia Arizona and Pan Left Productions (USA).
This workshop developed basic knowledge and skills needed to
actualize an independent audiovisual project. Carlos Nieto & the
Venezuelan Anarchist Black Cross facilitated a workshop on
“Human Rights in Times of Crisis”, elaborating judicial and
legal strategies for defending Human Rights. Fabian Unlogistic, of
the French band Unlogistic gave a workshop on “Basic
Sound-Tech” teaching amplifying/ recording art and skill for
musicians. Two other workshops were given by the International
War Resisters, one of the oldest anti-militarism groups in the world.
The first of these was on “Non-Violent Direct Action” and
taught practical skills related to civil-disobedience as well as steps
necessary to organizing actions and mounting campaigns. The
second was on “Conscientious Objection and

All week long, the film series held showings in the university (UCV)
and every night as of 7 pm in the Organizacion Nelson Garrido,
where films were projected simultaneously in two different rooms.
Among the many films presented, coming from over 8 different
countries, the one to provoke the most commentary and enthusiasm
was “Nuestro Petroleo y Otros Cuentos” [Our Petroleum
and Other Stories], a film that has been censured by the Venezuelan
government. It was shown at three different times to enthusiastic
audiences in rooms at top capacity.

º Weaving Connections, Constructing Autonomy

The Organizacion Nelson Garrido was effectively converted into an
epicenter of dissidence and counterculture all week long. Initial
planning provided for breakfast and lunch to be served to over 60
people per day; water had to be added to the soup! in order to feed
the crowds numbering over 100 who arrived at the ASF
disenchanted with the official WSF and seeking a few hours of
refuge from the discrimination and militarization of the official event.
The menu provided both meat and vegetarian meals, coffee from
peasant cooperatives from Portuguesa and cookies bought from
small family businesses. Many groups held planned and
spontaneous meetings at the ONG during the week, such as the
Peoples Global Action Assembly and the International Anarchist
Encounter that involved over 60 activists from 18 countries who
designed the “Declaracion Libertaria de Caracas” or Caracas
Libertarian Declaration.

Over the course of the 7 days, the ONG was also host to an
independent material/media fair that sold books, publications, zines,
T-shirts and music, resulting in 2 million Bolivares (800$ USD) in
sales that financed and supported the self-managed nature of the
event. The autonomous and independent nature of the ASF was also
made possible by countless volunteer contributions such as the
donation of publications for sale by the Fundacion Era Ecologica,
Federacion Libertaria Argentina (FLA), and Colectivo Autonomo
Magonista (Mexico) as well as the donation of T-shirts and
video-projector by Brennan Wauters (Canada). Earth First! (USA)
donated a percentage of vending sales. The Federación Anarquista
Iberica (FAI), the anarcopunk band Los Dolares (Venezuelans in
Catalonia) and the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair/Salon de livres
anarchiste de Montreal, among others, organized activities in their
respective countries to help fund the event. Added to the 4 months of
fundraising previous to the event, these actions covered the
organizing expense of over 7 million Bolivares (a little over 3000$
USD). Almost a third of these expenses went to the printing costs of
the publication “Alterforo”. Over 10 000 copies of this FSA
program and magazine were distributed, having an impact that
surpassed the most optimistic expectations.

Funds also supported a mobilization organized by indigenous and
environmental groups of the state of Zulia in the west of Venezuela.
This march against the exploitation of coal and for indigeneous
autonomy in Zulia was held on Friday Jan. 27th, despite the
aggression and disturbances caused by Chavista [pro-government]
groups. This counter-agitation was due to the fact that the march
was denouncing not just the activities of the government coal
company Carbozulia, but the entire government development policy
regarding mining. This unsustainable development policy involves
the oppression and dislocation of many indigenous peoples and is
congruent with the planned IIRSA [Iniciativa para la Integración de
la Infraestructura Regional Suramericana, a Latin American
free-trade-treaty not unlike the FTAA]. These Chavista
counter-actions were not the only instance of government
intimidations against the Alternative Social Forum; political-police
vehicles were circling the ONG all week long.

The objective of creating a week-long space fermenting dissidence
against the Venezuelan government, the state-centric left, traditional
political parties and Capital was achieved with success beyond
expectation. The goal of spreading a multiplicity of political visions
and strategies was achieved without the logistical support of the
Venezuelan army and without any promotion or funding weighted
with bureaucracy. The second objective, reconstructing a grassroots
network of autonomous social movements, inspiring new ways of
doing politics and building a transformational movement, is a project
that transcends the time-span of a week. For this reason, each one of
the organizations that convened at the ASF is driving forward with
diverse programs at a variety of levels. The recovery of various
movement agendas is critical: ecologists, students, neighborhood
organizations, feminists, indigenous peoples’ movements,
youth, citizens and campesin@s form an emancipatory challenge to
our stagnant political system characterized by redundant electoral
cycles and agendas imposed from above.

More information (in spanish & english) at
www.fsa.contrapoder.org.ve and www.nodo50.org/ellibertario

trsln: erica
Nelson Méndez <mendezn-A-camelot.rect.ucv.ve>
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