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The crisis of Kenya and the hypocrisy of the WSF

by Rafael Uzcategui Tuesday, Feb. 05, 2008 at 12:17 PM

*A member of the collective editorship of the Venezuelan publication El Libertario (, in Spanish & English) exposes the inconsistencies of the bureaucracy that manipulates the World Social Forum through a reading of their evasive silence with regards to the tragedy that Kenya is experiencing today.

We can start by illustrating the point with an example. You live in a disorderly home, in which despite hardship, you try to make things better. A group of people turn up and say that they’d like to sleep in your house because they believe that their support will facilitate and encourage better relationships between the members of your family and that the coexistence of everyone will result in new forms of relationships in which everyone will benefit. You receive them as guests, and for a week they reiterate, incessantly, the pleasure they feel to be with this family, and they speak until they’re blue in the face about the importance of solidarity, ethical values, communication, etc.etc. In your home everyone is happy, and for a week there is a respite and an atmosphere that leaves everyone feeling satisfied. Your guests repeat, for the nth time, that you can count on them for anything, and that the links needed so that your situation might improve have already been forged and are in the process of advancing. However a short time later the situation in your house flares up again and its inhabitants start to set upon each other, like they haven’t done in a long time. You wait for your new friends to help your family out, and that they honour the recently established relationship between you. It turn out, however, that your new ‘friends’ have forgotten about you and that they are busy visiting other families just like they did with your family a few months earlier. Faced with this situation, you feel that the intentions of your ‘friends’ were never sincere, that they tricked you, and that they were really using you for ends that you still don’t understand.

This comparison can be applied to the case of the ‘Day of Global Action’ called by the WSF for the 26th January, given that they were not able, for various reasons, to hold the event as they have done since its inception in Porto Alegre. At the end of January 2007 the 7th WSF was held in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, where the organisers tirelessly repeated how happy they were to hold it for the first time in the African continent. According to the official discourse of those days, realising the event there would provide support for the struggles of local organisations, connect with the problematics of the continent and help build bridges with its progressive elements. The actual event was, however, quite different, as I related at the time, as an observer on the ground, in a text that can be read (in Spanish) at:

In Nairobi, due to the internal crisis that the event was experiencing, it was decided that a ‘Day of Global Action’ would be held on the 26th January 2008, this call out inspired a variety of support and campaigns that would either start or be realized on this day. But, if you make the effort to review the hundreds of actions that were realized you would very quickly notice one thing: hardly any called attention to the crisis of the African country, a turmoil in which the two months of rioting and conflict has caused the deaths of more than 700 people. What happened to the good intentions that were affirmed scarcely a year ago?

The World Social Forum was created, in its moment, as a proposal for the construction of alternatives born from the coming together of movements that in 1999 was baptized as the antiglobalization movement. A large sector of the international left were taken by surprise by the mobilisations that occurred that year in the US around the WTO convention. Many of the participants of the actions in Seattle were doing so against globalisation, multinationals and capitalism, but also against the political forms of the traditional left which many people pointed to as being partly responsible for the current situation. One of the reasons for their surprise was that here was a protest movement from which they were, quite literally excluded.

The antiglobalization movement was perceived by the ‘widows of the Berlin wall’ as an opportunity to breathe life into their discourse and recover legitimacy. In the following years they dedicated themselves, meticulously, to channelling these rebel waters towards their own decrepit mill. At least if they couldn’t control the conventions and counter-summits, they wouldn’t have the same problems with a conclave such as the WSF. In Porto Alegre, the methods of the PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores, Lula’s ruling party in Brasil) to assume protagonism of the event left no doubt that the WSF would be an arena in order to see which leftwing tendency would control proceedings. And sooner rather than later, this ‘other world is possible’ was colonized by the world of the dogmatic and authoritarian parliamentary left. No-one was surprised that the expensive stalls at Porto Alegre were selling Stalin t-shirts, or that the ‘leftist’ governments had the largest exhibits or that the NGO’s with greater economic capacity were the ones that monopolized the discussion forums. On a micro level, the WSF reproduced all the perversions that it, in theory, questioned.

During those days in Nairobi, the locals remembered the tribal struggles as something distant, and tried to take the first steps towards a western style democracy, that being their point of reference. However, it as if, after the events at the WSF in Caracas, in which the WSF accentuated the polarization that fragmented the grass roots movements in Venezuela (see, the event has been put under a curse. Thus after the WSF visited Kenya, the African country’s sleeping demons awoke, while the politburo of the new international of progressive bureaucracy looks the other way.

There are those who participate in the WSF who genuinely want change, but the crisis that the conclave is experiencing is related to this throng of functionaries and minor bureaucrats of the left who perceive the event as a platform to in their words, “…accumulate forces and change their correlation…” They are same people who demand in shouting voices that the WSF should have a program for assuming power, and that they crave it because amongst the invited are strongmen and authoritarian prophets of every variety.

But I can save myself the effort of making all the explications. The silence of the WSF in the face of the unfolding crisis in Kenya, the most recent country to have served it as an Amphitryon, says it all.

Rafael Uzcategui


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