Alternative Social Forum in Caracas
Parallel to the official Caracas "policentric" World Social Forum, sponsored by the Chavez government, the national oil company PDVSA and even the Caracas Hilton hotel, an Alternative Social Forum took place, organised by anarchist and anti-authoritarian groups in Venezuela, and without subsidies, without compromises with power. Most participants probably saw it less as a counter-event, but as a welcome addition to the official social forum, and many particpated in both -- including War Resisters' International.
The alternative forum did not only discuss issues that were left out of the official forum -- militarism in Venezuela (quite obviously an issue that is not welcome in a country where the president is a military), the social and ecological consequences of Venezuela's oil and coal production, mostly for the "world market", human rights in Venezuela or anarchism in Cuba, to mention just a few. More important than that, the alternative forum engaged in a real debate, unlike the format often found at the official forum, which did not seem very different from consumerism, just in a "leftist" variant, with hundreds listening to supposedly intelligent speeches but with little space to really participate.
Still, the alternative forum was also a place of critique of the official social forum process, and the "institutionalisation of the World Social Forum that has spelled its degeneration over half a decade of development. This bureaucratisation of the WSF is contrary to its genesis and original principles, which spoke of a convergence of diverse and contradictory movements, a 'movement of movements'. At its current stage, the WSF is serving to catapult and legitimise a series of leaders, governments, institutions, NGOs and leftist political parties with relatively large economic power and resources; this has the effect of furthering these interests and marginalising more radical and 'minority' movements. One of the priorities of the Alternative Social Forum was to generate an autonomous space to develop and interrelate various local movements, whose diverse subjectivities offer alternative visions to the imposed discourse and Manichaeism that has characterised Venezuela in recent years", so the organisers of the alternative forum. No surprise then, that the political police observed the Alternative Social Forum.
Of course, it wasn't tens of thousands that participated, but propably several hundreds. But more important, a community was created, and real networking took place, which will hopefully last and will contribute to the development of something new.