Cyberspace After Capitalism at the World Social Forum

Well, the trip has gone very quickly and I haven’t had any time to write blog entries.

I’m in Rio de Janeiro now, waiting to meet a new friend named Paul one more time, hopefully, before heading to the airport for the flight back to San Francisco via Miami.

So, flashback to Porto Alegre… the World Social Forum was amazing! About a hundred thousand people from all over the world all gathered to improve the world. Well, most people attended from Brazil. The newly elected Brazilian President Da Silva, affectionately known as “Lula,? spoke at the conference, as did Venezuelan President Chavez, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky (whose lectures I attended during university), and Arundhati Roy, representing Indian social movements. These were the stars. And how Chomsky managed to draw a standing room only, nearly rioting crowd filling the Gigantiniu Stadium is beyond me. The content of his speech was excellent, yet he droned in his delivery. That didn’t stop the crowd from singing their “Lula? song to the soccer tune of “Ole? when Chomsky happened to mention the President the people of Brazil are so fond of. I guess it’s understandable since he is a disabled man who rose from the ranks of manual labor in the PT (Socialist Party) in Brazil, running for many many years before his eventual election. Now, he faces the challenge of keeping his principles from his labor activist days in the face of IMF pressures on the Brazilian economy among myriad other problems. Yet, the people of Brazil are almost universally hopeful and supportive.

Besides the “stars,? many people participated on panels and spoke whether from the podium or the crowd. My panel presentation on Cyberspace After Capitalism went quite well, even after mixups by the World Social Forum organizers about room scheduling and publicizing of the Life After Capitalism series of events, organized by ZNet and particularly by Michael Albert. I’m very grateful for his efforts as well as to Peter Waterman for organizing and moderating the Cyberspace After Capitalism panel.

The Life After Capitalism events started with a welcome dinner the day I arrived in town and ended with a going-away dinner the last evening of the forum and evaluation meeting the day after the forum ended.

In between the events, there were many opportunities to meet interesting people from social movements all over the world. I met Marina (actually from the plane), Jeremy, and ? from the New York region, ? from England, Ezekiel, Paula, and Nikito from Argentina, Blicero from Italy, ? from Spain, and many, many others. Actually, I had already met Nikito and Blicero before through Indymedia and Tech Fed activities in the San Francisco Bay Area. And of course I ran into the omnipresent Indymedia maven Sheri Herndon, who is always a pleasure to chat with, even when she is frustrated with the latest Indymedia scandal.

Ezekiel’s accounts of the Assembleas, the piqueteros, and the occupied factories in and around Buenos Aires were fascinating. And his friend Paula’s project documenting the “disappeared? Argentinian film directors of the 1970’s inspired me.

Stories from an Intergalaktika workshop including representatives from Paraguayan, Uruguayan, Argentinian, and Spanish social movements, as well as the Zapatista movement in Mexico, were spellbinding. It was humbling to offer the free Internet services provided by the Online Policy Group to such an incredible variety of important activists.

That workshop took place at the “youth camp,? which was a “city within a city? housing 30,000 people in tents!

Even a workshop explaining the participatory budget process adopted for some time in Porto Alegre under the PT were fascinating. I’d like to try to bring some of that experience back to San Francisco.

I learned about many political theories and activists who I hadn’t heard of. Particularly pressing for me as a non-violent anarchist in favor of maximum decentralization of the decisionmaking process is to come up with viable mechanisms for handling decisionmaking for infrastructure such as telecommunications and mass transit. Interesting topics that people mentioned to me include:

- Eduardo Chaves discussion of self-education with computers in Brazil, available from chaves.com.br (couldn’t find anything good on his site)
- Union for Radical Political Economics (which can perhaps help with an economic analysis of a Free State of San Francisco), provided by Julie Mattaei, jmatthaei@wellesley.edu
- Chilean anarchist Pedro Gonzales
- Chilean socialist Oscar Schanake
- ParEcon, the book by Michael Albert on participatory economics, www.parecon.org
- Empire, by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
- The Great Transformation, by Karl Polyani
- Nickle and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
- Etcgroup.org
- ? anarchist recommended by Chilean guy on way back from Christo monument

In the Life After Capitalism evaluation session, as well as in an Intergalaktika evaluation session, the idea came up of not relying so heavily on the organizers of the World Social Forum for logistical support. Organizing some of the logistics independently might help to pull the events off with less aggravation… well, it’s a thought. The idea of renting a separate building nearby the event with space for Indymedia activities as well as Life After Capitalism and possibly Intergalaktika events also came up.

The food in Brazil is excellent, event for vegetarians, especially when one considers the fruit. I tried many new fruit juices that I have never tried before and got lots more experience with ones I didn’t know well. One of my favorites here is maracuja (passion fruit) as well as acai, which apparently has to be frozen immediately when found in the jungle so it can be transported and mixed with guarana to produce this dark brown very sweet thick juice. Banana and guava smoothies were great for a stomach that wasn’t always cooperating, hopefully not because I was eating and drinking so much fruit! Papayas and mangoes are everywhere here! I also tried things called caja, caju (which I think is the cashew plant’s fruit), fruta de caldo, and some others I don’t remember.

I was exhausted from waking up early each morning to take a shuttle from the hotel in a town outside Porto Alegre to the forum events for the day and not arriving back at the hotel until little sleep was possible each night. So, my plan on arriving in Rio de Janeiro was to relax, relax, relax!