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Some Day, We Will Dismantle the Wall. Some Day, We Will Open the Big Avenues Again

Some day, we will dismantle the wall. Some day, we will open the big avenues again. Speech by Gustavo Marin at the opening of the Moroccan Social Forum , which took place on July 27 to 29, 2004 in Rabat.

Some day, we will dismantle the wall. Some day, we will open the big avenues again.

At the Dawning of the Twenty-first Century, a New Event: the First World Social Forum in Porto Alegre

The twenty-first century opened with a historic event. In January of its first year, the first World Social Forum was held in Porto Alegre, the culmination of process that had begun several years earlier.

The event needs to be put in its historical context. We could mention the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 as a date that marked a significant inflection in the emergence of world civil society. Of course, every nation, every culture, has singular historical references and what is important for some is not for others. For this reason, I think we especially need to consider the end of Apartheid in South Africa in 1994 as a fundamental moment in the historical process of the emancipation of the peoples and societies of today.

In the eighties and at the beginning of the nineties, we witnessed some major changes. Capitalistic globalization became the undisputed dominant system … some even thought that “the end of history” had come. Citizens were facing a model that no longer had any ideological or economic competitor to face, as Soviet society and its satellites were ultimately disintegrated. A new form of financial and commercial globalization of the markets and an increasingly powerful expansion of capitalistic modernization deeply altered the economy, society, and culture.

Nonetheless, throughout the entire nineties, we actively participated in the emergence of a new civil society on a world scale. New, because rid of the former ideological models and old methods of social organization that gave parties and leaders the main roles in social and political life, and new, because it began to open up ways for the development of new ways for citizens to be involved in political life. Search for new paradigms, new gender relations, new relations between generations, appreciation of the intercultural dimension, diversity, demands for new human rights, search for a new relationship with the Earth and with Nature: all these elements constituted a fertile ground for the emergence of a new global, increasingly pluricultural civil society.

Three main periods can be distinguished:

- 1989-1994: civil society remained subordinated to an agenda defined by the United Nations. Starting in the late eighties, the General Secretariat of the UN had taken the initiatives of establishing an international agenda marked by big yearly meetings, one of the most well-known of which was the Earth Summit in Rio in June 1992. Civil society confined itself to a parallel summit for NGOs, outside of the heads of state’s deliberations. The last meetings of this agenda were the Social Summit in Copenhagen in March 1995 and the Conference on Women in Beijing in June of the same year.

- 1994-1998: civil society became increasingly independent. In 1994, Nelson Mandela triumphed in South Africa and marked the end of Apartheid. New economic, social, and political crises came to a head in Asia, Latin America, and Russia, and new wars and conflicts affected defenseless populations in the Balkan countries and in the Great Lakes of Africa. There was growing awareness that the political and economic leaders of the big corporations and international institutions were not only incapable of facing these crises, but were often mainly responsible for them. Reports from the multilateral institutions spoke for themselves: in a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report, the United Nations drew up a critical balance of the evolution of the world, stating that in twenty years, more than one hundred Third World countries and in the former Eastern Europe had suffered a greater and more lasting decline in the standard of living than anything the industrialized countries had experienced during the big crisis of the thirties, that nearly 1.6 billion people were living in worse conditions than at in the early eighties, often on less than one dollar a day, and that the debt service often absorbed between one-fourth and one-third of limited government revenue at thwarted crucial government investments.

- 1999-2004: civil society appeared massively on the political scene and strengthened its autonomy. As of the massive protest demonstrations against the WTO in Seattle in 1999, it became a habit to mark the emergence of world civil society with the names of the big cities where other similar gatherings took place: Barcelona, Genoa, or Florence. A worldwide Intifada moved to the front of the stage. And a city in southern Brazil, Porto Alegre, became known for its singular feature of being the place where in January 2001, the first World Social Forum was held.

This Forum and the many continental and regional forums that have taken place since January 2001, have brought out some of the new features of world civil society:

It stands in opposition to the leaders of the big financial groups and the governments of the big powers. The World Social Forum in Porto Alegre is held at the same time as the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Civil society attempts to present itself as an alternative. Beyond opposition, revolt, a few civil-society organizations have advanced proposals for a new society, for another world. They deal with a number of themes:

- against debt and in favor of regulation of the financial markets; - against impunity and in favor of respect for civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights; - against AIDS and in favor of control of pharmaceutical companies; - against discrimination and in favor of freedom of sexual expression; - against the various and sundry forms of air and water pollution and in favor sustainable environmental management; - against the standardization of food and in favor of appreciation of food diets that are more respectful of organic farming; - against cultural homogenization and in favor of varied artistic practices, musical in particular (hip-hop and rap bands actually constitute young people’s social movements).

Among this great diversity of challenges, one has become essential: the struggle against war and for peace. The demonstrations that took place in February 2003, gathering millions of people in large and small cities all over the world, including the United States, constitute the expression of a renewal of civic movements on a global scale.

The Social Forums of Porto Alegre have punctuated every year, at beginning of the year, the emergence of this new civil society. After the WSF in Mumbai, India, in January of this year, the dynamics started by the first WSF of Porto Alegre were considerably fuelled . Henceforth, Mumbai is registered in the citizens’ agenda begun in Seattle, or more precisely, in South Africa, when Apartheid fell in 1994. In Mumbai, last January, Nelson Mandela’s speech at the closing ceremony was a true historic symbol. With the Mumbai Forum, the efforts to truly globalize the WSF and to develop it beyond Porto Alegre succeeded, because the search for a true internationalization of resistance and of the development of alternative forms to capitalistic globalization aims, precisely, at strengthening the struggles of all actors, in the North and in the South, in the East and in the West. After Mumbai, Porto Alegre is even stronger.

We must not, however, underestimate the weaknesses of these dynamics. Vast regions of Africa, the Arab World, South Asia, and China, are barely present or even absent. Social Forums are increasingly known about, but they are not yet sufficiently rooted at the grassroots level. We still need to gain much more influence in national, regional, and world political institutions. In fact this is just the beginning of the road … And as we travel down this road, we know that this second Moroccan Social Forum is playing an essential role.

After the Events of September 11, 2001

I began by saying that the twenty-first century opened with a historic event: the first World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. But a short time later, the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and on the Pentagon in Washington deeply changed the political context. World civil society is henceforth facing crucial challenges.

We are more and more strongly convinced of the need move into a new stage. Whereas the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Apartheid foretold of a new world organization founded on international multilateralism and based on law and democracy, we were plunged into a completely different scenario: that of the undivided rule of the American Empire. Neoliberal globalization is increasingly spreading out its tentacles, reaching every last corner of the planet, and doing nothing but aggravating inequalities between the rich and the poor, and between the North and the South. This early twenty-first century scenario is marked by the passage from neoliberal globalization to neo-imperial globalization (where the logic of war is added to the logic of competition, unveiling the interests of the United States and its allies).

History teaches us that all empires fall. But it also teaches that empires can stand for several centuries! So far, empires haven’t stopped history. But the North American empire had a singular feature that places us before a historic challenge: the forms of production and consumption, the scientific and technical systems it has implemented, are undermining the human condition and the whole planet.

We now know that this empire goes through recurrent economic crises, but that it goes from one crisis to the next. It could even be said that it feeds on these crises. So far, it has been able to bounce back every time. Of course, every time it leaves behind an economic and social situation that is worse than any earthquake ever has: societies that are even more broken up and disintegrated, where inequalities and exclusions are greater.

This empire also suffers crises in governance. We have been saying for a long time that reform of the United Nations system is an absolute necessity. The fact is that there has been no reform. The international security system has not only become obsolete but, under the tutelage of the North American empire, is also now a danger for security and understanding among nations.

Furthermore, this empire is trying to impose a new ideological and religious framework by engaging in veritable crusades, which only helps to bolster religious fanaticism. There is one particular, major feature, which is shared by all empires, but in which this one has indeed become a specialist: every time there is a crisis, it reacts by waging a war. It is a warring empire that acts with the use of violent force and imposes wars. This is clearly demonstrated by its latest war, the one we are currently experiencing in Iraq.

That being said, the current situation has another singular feature that cannot be ignored: it is marked by a powerful onset of the spectacular violence of networked Muslim groups. We have reached a point where tremendous attacks that have left several thousand deaths in their wake are commemorated every year. Henceforth, we are going to live in a world where we are going to remember past massacres every year. This a singular feature of our times: the North American empire is imposing itself in the middle of explosions. Proof of this is not only in Iraq, but also in the Arab World, big cities of the North, and also some in the South.

In this context—because it is in this context that we must reason—are we placed between the devil and the deep blue sea? On the one hand, an empire imposing its “Pax Americana” through war and the consequent social and political organization it carries with it and on the other, groups organizing repeated attacks, without forgetting Mafia networks, those clandestine networks that determine the lives of millions of human beings, especially those of migrants, who survive in conditions close to slavery.

In such a context, the emergent civil society that we are trying to develop must not be taken hostage.

We have progressed since the fall of the Berlin Wall and especially since the fall of Apartheid in South Africa. In the past decade, we have made headway on the Human Rights issue. We have even been successful in setting up an International Criminal Tribunal. Important networks have developed. Hundreds of meetings have been celebrated. The list is long: a citizens’ campaign against hunger in Brazil sponsored by Betinho and the international meeting of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World in 1997 in São Paulo, the world meetings organized by the Zapatistas, the World Women’s March, many Social Forums, and so forth.

All this progress has been significant. The Social Forums, as well as the citizens’ alliances we are facilitating are essential because the challenges remain: however long this empire prevails, we must do whatever we can to push its decline.

The twenty-first century should be a century of major transformations, in our way of thinking, feeling, producing, consuming, meeting, and governing ourselves. Everyone knows this, but when one is isolated, one is overcome by one’s own helplessness. It is against this helplessness that we need to react, and this reaction is appearing all over the world in various shapes and forms.

To overcome this challenge, a large debate of ideas and proposals is in progress in the process developed by the Social Forums and by the various citizens’ dynamics in many regions of the world. They can and must not only provide answers to these questions, but beyond that, contribute to opening new perspectives now, so humankind can live in peace. In these times, this challenge has become a matter of life and death. In this context, the various Social Forums can supply decisive answers.

In conclusion, I will underscore four features of this genuine “social movement” consisting of citizens’ forums.

1) They are both a passion and a method, even though these words can appear to be contradictory. They appeal to passion and courage, because in the whirlwind of the crises surrounding us, they are a penetrating statement of our determination to overcome the feeling of helplessness. Increasingly, the Forums are proposing ways, methods, and collective tools to make real progress toward solutions to the current crises. The Forums are not ingenuous endeavors, in the pejorative sense of the term. They can be more adapted and more useful for change than past strategies that didn’t prosper. With new methods and new visions of the future, the Forums are trying to generate a capacity for responding to the current challenges.

2) A second feature is that the Forums are constantly moving to blend unity and diversity. In the process of building a new form of citizenship on a local and global scale, we must be careful to avoid stating a single unit of visions, which can be tantamount to uniformity, denying freedom, and the makings of an authoritarian vision. Similarly, diversity, pushed to the extreme, can lead to taking refuge in sectarianism, fanaticism, or nationalism. We must therefore take diversity as wealth and be careful to make the different cultural sensitivities converge. To do so, it is important to listen, engage in dialog, meet, be attuned to the quality of communication, and clarify confusions to be able to transcend the obstacles.

3) A third feature of the Social Forums is that they take into consideration the complexity and cross-cutting nature of contemporary societies. We avoid simplistic or mechanical visions of social processes. In fact, complexity, far from being an obstacle, constitutes a lever to come out of crisis situations. Besides, this cross-cutting feature gives us a vision of the whole so as not to rule out any solutions in variable and complex situations.

4) Finally, a fourth feature of the Social Forums is that they try to include the imaginary and the unforeseeable. We must be very careful not to impose rigid models excluding other visions of the world and various experiences of people motivated by this dynamics. Personal and collective projections, and their convergence through open debate, are essential to this process. Also, we give a lot of importance to the unpredictability of this adventure, while also fixing specific stages where we will meet along the road that we will travel. Antonio Machado’s poem has become a central methodological principle: Wayfarer, there is no path, you make the path as you go. For this, instead of stating: I think, therefore I am, we are rather inclined to saying: I walk with others, therefore I exist.

After the first World Social Forum of Porto Alegre in January 2001 came the events of September 11, 2001. The second World Social Forum, in January 2002, took place in the middle of the war in Afghanistan. The third World Social Forum, again in Porto Alegre at the beginning of 2003, contributed to the peace demonstrations of February 2003. War was launched on Iraq in April 2003. The Social Forum in Mumbai in January 2004 marked the opening, the growing internationalization of a new world civil society. We are witnessing today a new wall, the wall of Apartheid built by the Israeli colonists. We are preparing the next World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, the fifth, in January 2005. We are participating today in the second Moroccan Social Forum.

One day, we will dismantle the wall of the Israeli colonists in Palestine. Nelson Mandela, when writing with a thousand other South Africans the Freedom Charter in June 1955, and during his 27 years of imprisonment, knew that one day, Apartheid would end. We are going to dismantle this new wall because the Palestinians’ struggle is more important than the Palestinians themselves: the Maori of the Pacific Islands, the Mapuche people of the south of Chile, we also are Palestinians because we are fighting against walls, against those who separate us, because, simply, we believe in humanity, we are fight for a responsible, plural, and united world.

The imperialistic colonists will not be able to stop history. Salvador Allende in his last speech, a few minutes before dying during the coup d’état of September 11, 1973, had already said: “One day, we will open the big avenues again.”

I have spoken to you in a language that is not my mother tongue. I speak French because I learned it in exile, in France, where I work and where I arrived, like many other Chileans, after three years in prison under Pinochet’s dictatorship. I would like to finish this speech by calling on our Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, and recite some verses from his work Heights of Machu Picchu. Pablo Neruda wrote this poem in Spanish, in Chilean in fact, thinking of the people of the high Andean plateaus who lived during the Inca empire and underwent Spanish colonization. More than 500 years have passed. But this poem is perfectly adapted to now. I am going to recite some verses in Chilean and I asked Mrs. Najmat Kuku of Sudan to say them in Arabic.

Sube a nacer conmigo, hermano

Dame la mano desde la profunda

zona de tu dolor diseminado

No volverás del fondo de las rocas

No volverás del tiempo subterráneo

No volverá tu voz endurecida

No volverán tus ojos taladrados...

Mostradme vuestra sangre y vuestro surco

decidme: aquí fui castigado

contadme todo, cadena a cadena

eslabón a eslabón, paso a paso

afilad los cuchillos que guardasteis

ponedlos en mi pecho y en mi mano

como un río de rayos amarillos

como un río de tigres enterrados

y dejadme llorar, horas, días, años

edades ciegas, siglos estelares...

Dadme el silencio, el agua, la esperanza

Dadme la lucha, el hierro, los volcanes...

traed a la copa de esta nueva vida

vuestros viejos dolores enterrados

y desde el fondo habladme toda esta larga noche

como si yo estuviera con vosotros anclado...

Yo vengo a hablar por vuestra boca muerta.

مرتفعات ماشو بيشو

بابلو نيرودا

إصعد وكن مولوداً معي، يا أخي

أعطني يدك من عمق ألمك المتناثر

لن تعود من قعر الصخور

لن تعود من زمن ما تحت الأرض

صوتك المزداد خطورة لن يعود

ولا عيونك المحفورة ستعود

أرني دمك وحفرتك

قل لي: هنا عوقبت

أخبرني كل شيء، سلسلة سلسلة

فقرة فقرة، خطوة خطوة

حضّر السكاكين التي حفظتها

واغرسها عميقاً في صدري وفي يديّ

كنهر من أشعة صفراء

كنهر من نمور سجينة

واسمح لي أن أصرخ، لساعات، لأيام، لسنوات

لأزمنة عمياء، لقرون ضوئية...

امنحني الصمت، والماء، والأمل

امنحني المعركة، والرمح، والبراكين...

أجلب الى أعلى قمم هذه الحياة الجديدة

أحزانك القديمة والدفينة.

ومن الأعماق حدّثني طيلة الليل الطويل

كما لو كنتُ مغروساً معك...

وسآتي لأنطق من فمك الميت.

مقطع من قصيدة يصف فيها الشاعر الشيلي العظيم صعوده الى قمة ماشو بيشو موطن هنود الأندس الذين تعرضوا للاستعمار الإسباني منذ 500 عام.




Christophe Aguiton
ATTAC France
+ 4 article(s)

Etienne Galliand
Directeur de l’Alliance des éditeurs indépendants
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Francisco Whitaker
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Gustavo Marin
Director of the Forum for a New World (...)
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Luis Lopezllera Méndez
Président de Promoción del Desarrollo popular, (...)
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Michel Sauquet
Vice-president of the Charles Leopold Mayer (...)
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Susan George
+ 4 article(s)

Véronique Rioufol
FPH : Fondation Charles Léopold Meyer pour le (...)
+ 6 article(s)

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