Hello ZNet Update Recipient,

Please note: As always, that you can add or remove addresses for ZNet
Updates at our ZNet top page, www.zmag.org

This message includes a letter about our recent WSF organizing effort --
plus a powerful talk given at the WSF by Arundhati Roy, who was there as
part of our endeavor.


In the period leading up to the World Social Forum, just completed in
Porto Alegre Brazil, ZNet sent various messages about a set of panels we
were co-hosting under the broad label Life After Capitalism, or LAC
(http://www.zmag.org/lac.htm). I have had many questions about the
experience, even just in the few hours I have been back from Porto
Alegre, and even from folks who were involved.

I fear that the discussion of what occurred, as in any confused
situation like this, may lead to diverse rumors which could distract
attention from more substantial and important matters at hand -- whether
the broader issues pertaining to the WSF, or, of course, those
pertaining to the world beyond.

So I want to provide what I hope is a clear rendition of the key facts
of the LAC experience and some brief comment as to their possible
meaning, not because I think these details nor even their interpretation
should be a focus of attention, but rather to remove them from attention
by getting them named and clarified and thereby settled.

There will no doubt also be articles about the events and the WSF and
its future appearing on ZNet -- along with our continuing coverage of
the war build-up and growing opposition to it, and other focuses, of

Also on ZNet there will appear, as time passes, more and more of the
presentations that occurred within LAC. Indeed, quite a few are already
in place at http://www.zmag.org/lacsite.htm I think these will provide
some very valuable vision and strategy content and that more will be
forthcoming shortly. 

By way of additional clarification, it is also important to remember
that LAC is not an organization, or a movement, or something collective
at all. It was a group of panels at the WSF that is now becoming a web
site presenting the content from those panels and perhaps also some
follow-up material. 


As of a day before we left for LAC on January 21, we thought we had in
place and were ready to proceed with 35 events including 88 speakers (24
from the U.S.), promoted via 40,000 brochures (25,000 in Portuguese and
the rest in English) and about 1,000 posters (half Portuguese and half
English) plus a prominent place in the printed WSF schedule. We also
planned two dinners for LAC presenters, to start and to end the events.

We thought as well that we had rooms assigned and we expected them all
to be in what is called the PUC, all near one another and of appropriate
sizes (the agreements regarding each panel ranged from hundreds to
thousands). We expected, as well, simultaneous translation for most of
LAC, a meeting space in PUC for gathering together to socialize between
sessions, and a final meeting room for wrap up and for exploring future
possibilities -- as well as, of course, housing for those who needed it,
means of communications, help for some people who needed it with travel,
and so on. 

The line-up of speakers, some of whom ZNet invited and many of which
were in turn invited by others in turn enlisted to help, was designed to
incorporate a wide range of anti-capitalist views. We included some very
well known people along with many lesser known but highly influential
grassroots activists from a range of political perspectives and
backgrounds. We felt the panels would attract large audiences and
provide a kind of escalating presence for the anti-capitalist elements
of the forum. 

The goal was to create a venue -- one sprawling place -- for
anti-capitalists to congregate, share, and debate with one another and
their audiences. The most optimistic hope was not only to have
productive exchanges and to facilitate people meeting and making
contacts, but also to explore possibilities for the WSF and for an
international movement of movements. 

One tension inside the WSF is over it being a forum for discussion,
meeting, and educating -- on the one hand -- and it becoming more like
an International Organization of movements, on the other hand. 

My own view is that the forum process makes excellent sense as a venue
promoting exchange and solidarity as well as pushing the idea of vision,
but that the participants are broader in scope of political alignments
than could be incorporated in any effective international movement of
movements. LAC would ideally have explored that contention, and perhaps
been a spur to the anti-capitalist portions of the WSF getting together
alongside the on-going forum process, to consider collectively creating
something new.

Well, those hopes aside, what happened during the days in Porto Alegre
was vastly less, regrettably.  

Among other problems, in a message received 24 hours before we left for
Brazil, most of LAC's rooms were rescinded on grounds that there was a
severe shortage of space for events. After considerable struggle,
replacement rooms were won back, but in a pattern that didn't match our
months-old schedule. Thus, our agenda had to be changed in the last few
hours before leaving, and re-translated, and then printed in the
brochures. All that happened, and things might well have been fine, but
then the rooms were in many cases altered a second and sometimes even a
third time -- causing our brochures to point people in wrong directions.

Worse still, LAC events weren't in the make-shift schedule printed for
the first day -- when the main schedule wasn't yet complete. Then we
were told we would be in the next more complete rendition, but we
weren't. And that we would be in the next, and again we weren't. The
final one we knew we were in on the computer console, but it was never

Our re-assigned rooms were in many cases so far off the beaten track
that WSF guides assigned to help attendees looking for events didn't
even know where our rooms were and often denied that they existed at

The part of our events under our control...our dinners, the actual
panels themselves, the final meeting, housing and transport for our
folks, etc., came off nicely, but there is no denying that LAC events
which should have involved hundreds and in quite a few cases thousands
of participants, rarely had even a hundred. 

The bottom line is that this year's WSF was marred by chaotic confusion
in many respects, not just regarding LAC -- at least beyond the core
events that were sanctioned and protected by the WSF itself. Many no
doubt accurate reports will appear about how excellent those core events
and the two large marches were. Those activities were in fact excellent
and, since they were the main experience for many people, luckily many
people's main experience of this year's WSF was largely without negative
incidents. The WSF-sanctioned events went off fine, none of them
suffered due to chaos effects. But for the rest of what went on during
the WSF, including LAC, everyone has horror stories -- and a good guess
is that about 400 events were cancelled outright. 

Why did all this happen?

The WSF last year was largely aided by the PT government of Rio Grande
de Sul. That government lost the recent election. This cut into the
available budget, staff, and city support. Additionally, many key
participants from last year went off to Brasilia to work in Lula's new
administration. So the events lost resources, lost cadre, and lost
financing, but had about two and a half times as many people compared to
last year. Despite less resources and more attendees, the preparation
process didn't change in certain crucial respects -- such as leaving
creating the schedule until the last week. Last year that approach
worked out okay. This year it was less successful. 

Was there any more to our travail than chaos effects? 

Well, yes, at a minimum there was a selection effect too. The WSF
authorities ordain certain events as being at the core of the WSF. When
a price had to be paid due to errors of overbooking rooms and other last
minute crises or miscalculations, the WSF-sanctioned events were
shielded, and other events -- whose sponsors had nothing whatever to do
with the errors -- did the paying. This is actually one of the things I
found most upsetting. The people who made the mistakes did not even
think to share the cost that those mistakes imposed. They shuffled them
off, instead, on others.

Does chaos plus selection explain everything? 

There is no way to know this for sure, and I doubt anything can be
gained by trying to explore the issue in the LAC case, or in the case of
other organizations whose projects suffered. It is hard to see how
moving LAC panels around, during the events was a chaos effect. It
seemed to take effort. It added tasks and complexity. So I suspect it
was rather accommodating last minute requests of others at our expense.
Should we have fought against that? Maybe...but would that really help
anything in the long run? 

Moving us out of rooms with translators who were ready to work, that no
one else wound up using, and into rooms without translators-- is also
hard to explain. It doesn't seem chaotic. But that is part of the
oddness of chaos...it transcends close analysis.

Another hard to explain dynamic is some people in our group not
participating or communicating at all, not even to note that they would
be absent. If we take that to be a combination of chaotic and busy
lives, plus a selection effect -- rather than anything overtly malicious
toward LAC -- then why shouldn't the same logic explain the whole
phenomenon of the WSF disrupting not only LAC but many other projects in
marginalizing ways? 

The big problems of the WSF are the unaccountability and even
invisibility of its decision makers, and its having reached a scale that
in many respects precludes having productive meetings. These are
important matters to discuss...and one approach to their solution would
be emphasizing local and regional forums as the more important venues of
public mutual exchange and learning, and having the World Social Forum
be only for representatives chosen from regional forums and accountable
to them. 

But these are matters for another essay.

Here...we have Arundhati Roy's Forum speech. Roy was at the events with


Confronting Empire
Arundhati Roy

I've been asked to speak about "How to confront Empire?" It's a huge
question, and I have no easy answers. 

When we speak of confronting "Empire," we need to identify what "Empire"
means. Does it mean the U.S. Government (and its European satellites),
the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade
Organization, and multinational corporations? Or is it something more
than that? 

In many countries, Empire has sprouted other subsidiary heads, some
dangerous byproducts - nationalism, religious bigotry, fascism and, of
course terrorism. All these march arm in arm with the project of
corporate globalization. 

Let me illustrate what I mean. India - the world's biggest democracy -
is currently at the forefront of the corporate globalization project.
Its "market" of one billion people is being prized open by the WTO.
Corporatization and Privatization are being welcomed by the Government
and the Indian elite. 

It is not a coincidence that the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the
Disinvestment Minister - the men who signed the deal with Enron in
India, the men who are selling the country's infrastructure to corporate
multinationals, the men who want to privatize water, electricity, oil,
coal, steel, health, education and telecommunication - are all members
or admirers of the RSS. The RSS is a right wing, ultra-nationalist Hindu
guild which has openly admired Hitler and his methods. 

The dismantling of democracy is proceeding with the speed and efficiency
of a Structural Adjustment Program. While the project of corporate
globalization rips through people's lives in India, massive
privatization, and labor "reforms" are pushing people off their land and
out of their jobs. Hundreds of impoverished farmers are committing
suicide by consuming pesticide. Reports of starvation deaths are coming
in from all over the country. 

While the elite journeys to its imaginary destination somewhere near the
top of the world, the dispossessed are spiraling downwards into crime
and chaos. This climate of frustration and national disillusionment is
the perfect breeding ground, history tells us, for fascism. 

The two arms of the Indian Government have evolved the perfect pincer
action. While one arm is busy selling India off in chunks, the other, to
divert attention, is orchestrating a howling, baying chorus of Hindu
nationalism and religious fascism. It is conducting nuclear tests,
rewriting history books, burning churches, and demolishing mosques.
Censorship, surveillance, the suspension of civil liberties and human
rights, the definition of who is an Indian citizen and who is not,
particularly with regard to religious minorities, is becoming common
practice now. 

Last March, in the state of Gujarat, two thousand Muslims were butchered
in a State-sponsored pogrom. Muslim women were specially targeted. They
were stripped, and gang-raped, before being burned alive. Arsonists
burned and looted shops, homes, textiles mills, and mosques. 

More than a hundred and fifty thousand Muslims have been driven from
their homes. The economic base of the Muslim community has been

While Gujarat burned, the Indian Prime Minister was on MTV promoting his
new poems. In January this year, the Government that orchestrated the
killing was voted back into office with a comfortable majority. Nobody
has been punished for the genocide. Narendra Modi, architect of the
pogrom, proud member of the RSS, has embarked on his second term as the
Chief Minister of Gujarat. If he were Saddam Hussein, of course each
atrocity would have been on CNN. But since he's not - and since the
Indian "market" is open to global investors - the massacre is not even
an embarrassing inconvenience. 

There are more than one hundred million Muslims in India. A time bomb is
ticking in our ancient land. 

All this to say that it is a myth that the free market breaks down
national barriers. The free market does not threaten national
sovereignty, it undermines democracy. 

As the disparity between the rich and the poor grows, the fight to
corner resources is intensifying. To push through their "sweetheart
deals," to corporatize the crops we grow, the water we drink, the air we
breathe, and the dreams we dream, corporate globalization needs an
international confederation of loyal, corrupt, authoritarian governments
in poorer countries to push through unpopular reforms and quell the

Corporate Globalization - or shall we call it by its name? - Imperialism
- needs a press that pretends to be free. It needs courts that pretend
to dispense justice. 

Meanwhile, the countries of the North harden their borders and stockpile
weapons of mass destruction. After all they have to make sure that it's
only money, goods, patents and services that are globalized. Not the
free movement of people. Not a respect for human rights. Not
international treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear
weapons or greenhouse gas emissions or climate change, or - god forbid -

So this - all this - is "empire." This loyal confederation, this obscene
accumulation of power, this greatly increased distance between those who
make the decisions and those who have to suffer them. 

Our fight, our goal, our vision of Another World must be to eliminate
that distance. 

So how do we resist "Empire"? 

The good news is that we're not doing too badly. There have been major
victories. Here in Latin America you have had so many - in Bolivia, you
have Cochabamba. In Peru, there was the uprising in Arequipa, In
Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez is holding on, despite the U.S.
government's best efforts. 

And the world's gaze is on the people of Argentina, who are trying to
refashion a country from the ashes of the havoc wrought by the IMF. 

In India the movement against corporate globalization is gathering
momentum and is poised to become the only real political force to
counter religious fascism. 

As for corporate globalization's glittering ambassadors - Enron,
Bechtel, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson - where were they last year, and
where are they now? 

And of course here in Brazil we must ask ...who was the president last
year, and who is it now? 

Still ... many of us have dark moments of hopelessness and despair. We
know that under the spreading canopy of the War Against Terrorism, the
men in suits are hard at work. 

While bombs rain down on us, and cruise missiles skid across the skies,
we know that contracts are being signed, patents are being registered,
oil pipelines are being laid, natural resources are being plundered,
water is being privatized, and George Bush is planning to go to war
against Iraq. 

If we look at this conflict as a straightforward eye-ball to eye-ball
confrontation between "Empire" and those of us who are resisting it, it
might seem that we are losing. 

But there is another way of looking at it. We, all of us gathered here,
have, each in our own way, laid siege to "Empire." 

We may not have stopped it in its tracks - yet - but we have stripped it
down. We have made it drop its mask. We have forced it into the open. It
now stands before us on the world's stage in all it's brutish,
iniquitous nakedness. 

Empire may well go to war, but it's out in the open now - too ugly to
behold its own reflection. Too ugly even to rally its own people. It
won't be long before the majority of American people become our allies. 

Only a few days ago in Washington, a quarter of a million people marched
against the war on Iraq. Each month, the protest is gathering momentum. 

Before September 11th 2001 America had a secret history. Secret
especially from its own people. But now America's secrets are history,
and its history is public knowledge. It's street talk. 

Today, we know that every argument that is being used to escalate the
war against Iraq is a lie. The most ludicrous of them being the U.S.
Government's deep commitment to bring democracy to Iraq. 

Killing people to save them from dictatorship or ideological corruption
is, of course, an old U.S. government sport. Here in Latin America, you
know that better than most. 

Nobody doubts that Saddam Hussein is a ruthless dictator, a murderer
(whose worst excesses were supported by the governments of the United
States and Great Britain). There's no doubt that Iraqis would be better
off without him. 

But, then, the whole world would be better off without a certain Mr.
Bush. In fact, he is far more dangerous than Saddam Hussein. 

So, should we bomb Bush out of the White House? 

It's more than clear that Bush is determined to go to war against Iraq,
regardless of the facts - and regardless of international public

In its recruitment drive for allies, The United States is prepared to
invent facts. 

The charade with weapons inspectors is the U.S. government's offensive,
insulting concession to some twisted form of international etiquette.
It's like leaving the "doggie door" open for last minute "allies" or
maybe the United Nations to crawl through. 

But for all intents and purposes, the New War against Iraq has begun. 

What can we do? 

We can hone our memory, we can learn from our history. We can continue
to build public opinion until it becomes a deafening roar. 

We can turn the war on Iraq into a fishbowl of the U.S. government's

We can expose George Bush and Tony Blair - and their allies - for the
cowardly baby killers, water poisoners, and pusillanimous long-distance
bombers that they are. 

We can re-invent civil disobedience in a million different ways. In
other words, we can come up with a million ways of becoming a collective
pain in the ass. 

When George Bush says "you're either with us, or you are with the
terrorists" we can say "No thank you." We can let him know that the
people of the world do not need to choose between a Malevolent Mickey
Mouse and the Mad Mullahs. 

Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to
it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our
music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our
sheer relentlessness - and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories
that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe. 

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are
selling - their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their
weapons, their notion of inevitability. 

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we
need them. 

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I
can hear her breathing. 

-Arundhati Roy 

Porto Alegre, Brazil 

January 27, 2003 

===================================This message has been brought to you by ZNet 
(http://www.zmag.org). Visit our site for subscription options.

Reply via email to