Destaque Internacional - Informes de Coyuntura - Vol. V - No. 116 - Nov. 11, 2003

 Brazilian Social Forum: X-ray of the Left

Important Congress of Brazilian Confrontational Movements Passes Unnoticed in the Major Communications Media

 The First Brazilian Social Forum (FSB) was held November 6-9 in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte, capital of the state of Minas Gerais. It was organized by the Brazilian Council of the World Social Forum (FSM), and counted among its participants 1,200 Brazilian organizations, 15,000 officially registered activists and 15,000 other guests, among whom were observers from twenty-two countries. The three hundred conferences, seminars and workshops were performed mainly on the campus of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and in the neighboring stadium "Mineirinho."

Under the showy motto "Another world is possible - Another Brazil is necessary," the FSB had as its objective the feeding of the "revolutionary enthusiasm" born in the forums of Porto Alegre, Genoa and Seattle; bringing up to date the process of the "construction of networks" and prompting the socio-revolutionary work of awareness-raising; denouncing "neo-conservatism" and "imperialism"; and contributing toward defining "a new paradigm" of the organization of society. This is what was explained in the welcome message of Moacir Gadotti, professor at the University of São Paulo (USP), founding member of the Workers Party (PT), member of the Paulo Freire Institute, and one of the main organizers of the FSB.

The FSB was marked by conferences of a Communist-anarchist variety in the political sphere, opposed to private property and private initiative; and permissive in moral matters, in favor of abortion, homosexuality and "transversality." It provided a unique opportunity to obtain an up-to-date X-ray of the Brazilian Left, with its new and old strategies, its dilemmas, its utopias, its internal contradictions, its problems and its fears. This X-ray is indispensable for knowing the debates that are taking place in the midst of the Brazilian Left and, consequently, what might come to pass in the short and medium time periods with the Lula regime and with Brazil itself.

The record of ten months of leftist government polarized the participants throughout the plenary conferences during the morning period, in the "Mineirinho" stadium, as well as in the hundreds of evening seminars and workshops relying on the UFMG.

A first current of thought, comprising sectors of the pro-Castro and pro-Chavez extreme left, more active in the conferences and perhaps a majority on the level of those attending, showed itself openly critical of President Lula, demanding greater speed and radicalism from the government in the promised structural reforms on the road to socialism. This current also demanded of the government a greater aggressiveness in foreign policy, even when acknowledging the government's support for Communist Cuba and the regime in Venezuela, as well as the affinity with revolutionary indigenous movements of Bolivia and Ecuador, with opposition currents in Colombia, etc. It is comprised of medium and grassroots voices of the PT itself; of intellectuals such as Emir Sader, professor of the University of São Paulo (USP) and one of the most influential members of the organizing committee of the World Social Forum (FSM); by militants of the theology of liberation; by members of the Socialist Party of the Unified Workers (PSTU), of Trotskyite tendency, etc.

A second current - with similar radicalism in its goals, but partisan of a gradualism in its strategies and its speed for arriving at the common socialist objective, as a way of awakening less adverse reactions in public opinion - supports the Lula government, although not unconditionally. It is comprised of members of the government itself connected with non-governmental organizations (NOGs); of leaders of the Workers Party (PT), of the Central Workers Office (CUT), of the Communist Party of Brazil (PC of B) and of the National Union of Students (UNITES); as well as of militants of those movements.

It is difficult to determine if this current still possesses a majority, at the national level, inside the Workers Party (PT), a detail that would be able to serve to do a forecast of the immediate and intermediate direction that the Lula government will take. In any case, at least on the level of the FSB, there seems to be no correspondence to reality in the statement of José Genoino, president of the PT and a participant in this event, that "almost the totality of the militant PT members, according to the opinion polls that we have conducted and the plenary meetings that are carried out in the entire country, have confidence in the government."

In this perspective, the Landless Movement (MST) deserves separate mention. With twenty years of activity, praised during the FSB by Leonardo Boff and previously placed as the model of the new revolutionary movement by Fidel Castro, with the majority of its leaders formed ideologically in ecclesial base communities (CEBs), it is perhaps the most articulated movement inside the revolutionary Brazilian NGOs.

The leaders of the MST present in the FSB showed themselves as possessing the radical Communist-anarchistic and pro-Castro nature of the first current. But at the same time, contradicting the caricatured image of "hot heads" that they customarily attribute to themselves, they agree with the second current in which the leaders primarily need to have a "cold head" and, when the circumstances demand it, flexibility in action, to avoid strategic errors. In the FSB, during the "State and Social Movements" conference, Gilmar Mauro, national coordinator of the MST, mentioned specifically a recommendation along the lines of the bloodthirsty Cuban-Argentine guerrilla Ernesto "Che" Guevara. On the other hand, it is perceived that the grassroots of the MST, that constituted the greater delegation in the FSB, receive an intense ideological preparation and a meticulous "awareness-raising" around the goals and methods to be followed.

"Without the struggle of the masses, there cannot be transformation nor revolution"; without "awareness-raising," no revolution "finds support, historically." This was the message delivered in the FSB by Gilmar Mauro, national coordinator of the MST, to the radical followers of political adventurousness and of revolutions from the top down. The leader of the MST referred, without doubt, to those militants of Left affected by an imprudent mentality that, according to expression of Lenin, constitutes the "childlike illness of Communism." A similar message had been given by Mauro in the Third Social Forum of Porto Alegre (cf. CubDest, "MST: Radicalism, Cold Head, Mysticism").

In the next article, having as a background the picture of this delicate correlation of forces at the core of the Brazilian Left, concrete cases will be seen that illustrate the strategic discussions and the dilemmas of the participants of the Brazilian Social Forum.

 Note 1:

The event was ignored by the most important Brazilian and international communications media, being almost exclusively covered by the agencies of the Left: Adital, connected with the theology of the liberation, Carta Maior y Diário Vermelho (Red Daily), as well as by other "alternative" agencies of limited diffusion. In this way, there was no opportunity given to Brazilian and international public opinion to take note of the importance of this meeting of the Brazilian Left, from which they will be able to initiate important socio-political events in the short and medium terms. The series of articles of Destaque Internacional, that begins today and that includes exclusive information from its team of correspondents in Belo Horizonte, tries to alleviate this lack of information.

 Note 2:

Belo Horizonte was not chosen "by chance" as a theater for the FSB, according to official note of the mayor Fernando Pimentel, of the governing Workers Party (PT), where it is explained that the city was in the hands of administrations of the Left for the last ten years. Paulo Santos da Silva, international director of relations for the National Students Union (UNITES), controlled by the Communist Party of Brazil (PC of B), added that also taken into account in choosing this city as the headquarters of the FSB was the decisive "weight" of the state of Minas Gerais in the organization of the three editions of the World Social Forum (FSM) and the vast "network of movements" of the Left that the state of Minas Gerais possesses. The weight of the networks of NGOs existing in this Brazilian state is not a little matter if in addition one considers that, just as in his conference he mentioned the theologian of liberation Leonardo Boff, one of the main and more applauded participants of the FSB, Brazil "possesses the greatest network of social movements of the world," with a considerable "internal force" inside which the Landless Movement (MST) is presented as a bulwark.


Adital, Carta Maior, Diário Vermelho, Luso-Brasileira de Notícias and correspondents of Destaque International in Belo Horizonte: Nelson Andrade, Ana Maria Lopes y Fernando Alencar.

Future articles:

Brazilian Social Forum: Leftists Debate Utopias, Strategies and Dilemmas

Brazilian Social Forum: Latin American Collaboration and Lulist Foreign Policy

Brazilian Social Forum: Pronouncements of the "Catholic Left," MST and Indigenous Advocates

Brazilian Social Forum: The Goal of "Deconstruction" and "Reinvention" of Man and of Society