Update from Puerto Alegre World Social Forum by Sam

Hi All,

This will be my penultimate update from Porto Alegre Brazil where I have been participating in the thematic social forum, as well as other autonomous activities. The last 2 days have been full of great experiences so I will try and provide a concise summary of the most important points.

Since I last updated you on Thursday, I have participated in two more panels in the forum itself, one on ‘indignados’ and another on ‘occupy’. Both of them had activists from across latin America, as well as indignados from Spain, OWS, activists from the Arab Spring, and many others. It has been great to share experiences and in particular receive questions from others about what occupy is, as well as hearing what it means to them. Perhaps one of the most common questions, and critiques, of Occupy has been the age old question ‘how can you change the world without taking power’. One of my most consistent answers, in particular from the perspective of my experiences in Occupy London, has been to highlight the diversity of politics and tactics of individuals in the occupy movement. I have stated that, as individuals, Occupy consists of revolutionaries, and reformists, Communists, Anarchists, and Socialists, Capitalists and anti-capitalists, those that want to work with the state and those that seek to abolish it. It seems that our diversity is our strength, and that we have a lot to learn from the factions that developed in the alter-globalisation movement, and the world social forum process and how to avoid making the same mistakes!

I also participated in a very lively discussion at the youth camp here, which is a large camp full of political discussions, music, food cooperatives, where a lot of the youth movements from Brazil have converged. Instead of talking about occupy, I asked them a series of questions (temperature checks) based on conceptions of occupy (i.e. use your hands to show me how much you agree with the following: occupy is about changing the world; its about political parties; its about violence; etc). It was great to see all their responses and I wish I had some better way of recording it all. The youth were very inspired by all the occupy/indignant movements they told us, and hoped to continue the spirit in Brazil.

This leads me to the final, and perhaps most important experience for me personally here, which has been spending time with Occupy Porto Alegre. They are a relatively small (around 30-40 activists) and autonomous group who, now in their third time occupying, have been there for over a month. Today I helped organise a gathering with other occupiers, indignants, and activists from the arab spring to exchange our experiences and ideas about the occupy movement. It was a really great experience, with long exchanges about the role of women, ethnic minorities, the environment, health and diseases, and the role of autonomy and self-management in the movement. I learned so much from them, and was so excited to see that many, perhaps the majority, of them were women (the social forum is quite male lead). I told them of the patriarchal problems that we have in London, and so did OWS, and one girl suggested forming an international occupy women’s collective. I said I am sure people in London would like to participate! More concretely, I got a list of emails from people involved in the occupation movement in Brazil as well as around the world, which I will bring back with me.

I also visited a cooperative/occupied building which is run by an autonomous collective called ‘Utopia and Struggle’, The have around 90 people living there, as well as a solidarity economy through their bakery, laundrette, t-shirt printing, organic rooftop farm (that feeds over half the building!), and ‘direct action theatre collective’. They have been there for 7 years, and are very much in support of the occupy movement. It was really inspiring to see them, and think about the ways in which different
autonomous collectives can work together with occupy whilst maintaining their own independence. On this last point, I also spent some time discussing with occupiers here what it may mean to have a global movement for them, and this idea of self-managed autonomous groups supporting each other horizontally seemed like the common thread of discussion. Finally, I have spent the last hour discussing the possibilities of helping them occupy a building, which they were inspired from our experiences about, and which I would love to help them out with (not least being a delegate of the social forum would give some political protection at first, or at least may help.)

Tonight I am meeting the secretary for human rights in brazil (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_do_Rosario) – please see long thread about this in the main email list, in which I seek to ask her what she will do about the human rights abuses against occupy, and how she will guarantee the wellbeing of all occupations in Brazil (I really do not like engaging with governments at all, but others in the group seemed keen for this conversation so I will tread carefully, and of course, am meeting informally and only as an individual).

Well, that’s all for now. Massive love and solidarity from here, and keep up the hard work in London