World Social Forum gathers in India

Some 75,000 participants from around the world are pouring into the fourth World Social Forum, in Mumbai, India, Jan. 16-21, preparing for more powerful, united, worldwide struggles to say “no to war,” and “another world is possible.”

Nobel laureates Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, and Joseph Stiglitz, the economist who resigned his World Bank position following disagreements over World Bank and IMF policies, are among those who will attend, as well as Vietnam’s Vice President Madam Nguyen Thi Binh, former United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, French farm-union leader José Bové, British Labour MP Jeremy Corbin, and former Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella.

The forum will feature at least 1,200 seminars, in addition to large public conferences and meetings that will be attended by up to 20,000 people. On the agenda for Jan. 19 is an all-day Global Antiwar Assembly.

Last year’s Feb. 15 global antiwar mobilization got its start at the European Social Forum in Florence, Italy, in November 2002. It took on worldwide momentum in January 2003 at the third World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Attended by 100,000 people from 156 countries, representing 5,717 organizations, last year’s World Social Forum issued an “International call to action against the war in Iraq.”

This year, activists with the nationwide U.S. peace coalition United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) say they will urge the World Social Forum to again help bring the world’s “second superpower” – masses of people – into the streets against the Bush administration’s unilateral war and occupation policies.

• UFPJ is mobilizing for demonstrations around the U.S. on March 20, the first anniversary of the U.S. war on Iraq, and UFPJ activists will urge the World Social Forum to support March 20 as a day to “say no to war” around the world.

• May 1 will fall in the middle of the UN’s meetings on nuclear non-proliferation. A call for actions demanding nuclear disarmament has already been issued. There will be a demonstration in New York City on that day, and in other places around the U.S. Support from the WSF for May 1 could have a tremendous impact in making this a worldwide action for nuclear disarmament.

• Aug. 29 is the day before the Republican Convention begins in New York. UFPJ is organizing what promises to be a massive mobilization rejecting the Bush agenda and policies. Leslie Cagan, UFPJ national coordinator, said, “It would be wonderful to see a global day of action – ‘the world says no to Bush’ – on Aug. 29th.”

The World Social Forum arose out of the international movement against corporate globalization that emerged in the late 1990s, most notably in the Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization, and those in Washington, D.C., against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The movement’s theme was a refusal to accept the scenario of a world wholly controlled by the interests of transnational corporations and the super-rich. Last year, around 1,000 U.S. labor, peace, and social justice activists attended the forum.

* * * * * *

Susan Webb traveling to Mumbai, India

Susan Webb, editorial board member and writer for the People’s Weekly World, is traveling to Mumbai, India, to provide first-hand coverage of the World Social Forum. She attended the WSF in Porto Alegre, Brazil, last year. Look for her stories in forthcoming issues of the paper.