Febr. 15, 2003: Libertad Digital, Madrid (Foros). Febr. 6, 2003: Agencia CubDest (FL).

The World Social Forum 2003: Its Networks, Goals and Strategies

* "Liliputian" and "Invisible" tactics give the appearance of spontaneity to what in reality is a gigantic protest organization

* Short and medium term objectives for Europe, the United States, Latin America and India

Until recently, leftist movements were set up in hierarchical fashion, around a party or a mass movement type group. Today, the model in vogue is the network, a kind of "(dis)organization" which "does not possess a hierarchical structure nor a headquarters," counting only on "nodes" in whose intercessions are united "horizontally" hundreds and thousands of protest groups. It's what explains the Italo-Brazilian Jose Luiz Del Roio, an intellectual whose participation was decisive in the Third World Social Forum (Porto Alegre, Brazil, Jan. 23-28, 2003). He is director of the Italian association "Ponto Rosso" (Red Point), which has among its objectives "to recover critically the historical and political experience of the new left and the workers' movement and communism in general," as well as to participate in the actual attempt of the "theoretical refounding of Marxism." Del Roio and his organization "Ponto Rosso" are part of the World Forum of Alternatives network, an international gathering of the revolutionary left that is very influential in the international committee of the World Social Forum, which has as principal spokesmen three Marxist theoreticians: the Belgian priest Francois Houtart, who was president of the sadly celebrated Tricontinental, launched by Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Havana, and who today directs the Center of Tricontinental Studies, in Belgium; the Hungarian Istvan Meszaros, already cited in the prior article, and the Egyptian Samir Amin.

The strategic advantages of an organization of networks set up horizontally and not hierarchically are great. To illustrate this, Del Roio gives as an example the Italian "Liliputian network," whose "moral leader" is the Catholic priest Alex Zanotelli, one of the most active figures of "liberation theology," and the leftist Catholic in Italy, a sort of Friar Betto of that country. The name and way of acting of that network makes reference to the work of the Irish author Jonathan Swift, in which a multitude of tiny midgets were able to neutralize the gigantic Gulliver.

The "Liliputian" strategy consists in building the largest possible worldwide network, constantly conquering space and influence in front of public opinion so as to obtain the isolation, relegating to unimportance, and "an ever narrower, tighter and thick" fence surrounding the actual Gulliver, represented by the conservative America government and by so-called neo-liberalism. Another tactic of the networks mentioned by Del Roio is the "invisibility" of action, inspired by the Zapatista guerrillas of Chiapas, which makes it difficult for the adversary to detect the identity of he who opposes him. In the mass demonstrations in Italy, this "invisibility" was reflected in tens of thousands of protesters wearing "tutte bianche" (all dressed in white clothes), "almost as if they were ghosts."On the panel "Empire, war and unilateralism," Del Roio presented without euphemisms the principal international objectives short and mid-range of the "networks": articulate hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of the principal cities of Europe, against the war in Iraq and against the American government (the next date of large simultaneous mobilizations is February 15); to push for a Europe out of NATO, allied with Russia; to encourage rapprochement between Russia and China; to support the Brazilian government in strenghtening its ties with Russia, China, and India; to establish contacts and support in every possible way for protest movements in the United States, to create in American public opinion a counterweight to the conservative government, and to inspire the participation of believers, especially of Catholics.

On the panel "Citizen insurgency against the established order," the priest Houtart explained the enormous strategic interest that India acquired to propel the revolution to the Asian and world wide level, highlighting that in the last 15 years one has seen a "multiplication" of social insurgencies in that country. Not in vain have the organizers of the WSF decided that the Fourth World Social Forum will be held in India in 2004, with the hope of giving a push to these insurgencies and of fomenting them in other Asian countries.

The system of networks, besides its evident strategic advantages, is being presented by participants in the WSF as a model of "alternative globalization," of social relationships that highlight the anti-hierarchical and egalitarian objectives of Marxist socialism and Gramscism. This is what Alexander Vladimir Buzgalin of the University of Moscow and director of the Marxist review "Alternatives" affirms, in his study "Alternative globalization and new social movements: theory and practice" (2003), which was distributed and commented upon during the WSF. It is noteworthy that so-called "Chaos theory," applied to social movements, also shows a predilection for networks as systems of (dis)organization.

The networks, with their strategies, their power and their goals, are no-doubt impressve. It would be a grave error to underestimate them. However they are not invincible and have their Achilles heel. For example, by simply exposing their revolutionary goals and showing that behind the apparent spontaneity of these protest movements there exists a whole theory of revolutionary action takes away a good part of their force of impact.