From Davos to Porto Alegre: Another World Is Possible

Revolutionary Worker #1186, February 9, 2003, posted at

In late January, two important events again focused the world's attention on opposition to global capital.

In Davos, Switzerland, thousands of people protested a meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), an annual gathering of many corporate heads and government officials from around the world.

At the same time--halfway around the globe--over 100,000 people came to Porto Alegre in Brazil to attend the World Social Forum (WSF). The WSF began three years ago as an alternative gathering in opposition to the WEF. Both events showed the desire of people to go forward to create a different world--a world free from the poverty and oppression that exist today. And in both Davos and Porto Alegre, opposition to the economic rule of corporate capitalism was linked to standing against U.S. war on Iraq.

Last year the WEF meeting was in New York City, where the the NYPD--puffed up in the post-9/11 atmosphere--tried to suppress and intimidate protests. But over 15,000 people took the streets in defiance.

This year the WEF returned to Davos, a tiny alpine ski resort in the Swiss Alps. Even though the authorities granted protest permits, thousands of heavily armed troops and police set up barricades around the WEF conference site. This was reportedly the largest security operation in Switzerland since WW2.

The New York Times reported, "While participants in the World Economic Forum here nibbled on canapés and debated the consequences of a possible war in Iraq, police officers with tear-gas grenades and water cannons mounted a huge security operation to keep protesters away from the delegates, who included Secretary of State Colin L. Powell."

On January 25 thousands of people headed to Davos by train for the protest. But Swiss police stopped trains near Davos and demanded people get off to pass through "control point" searches. People refused. Eventually, the police backed down, allowing some to get through to Davos. But later trains were also stopped.

In Landqart, about 25 miles from Davos, thousands of people who were delayed by police stoppages of the trains protested by blocking a highway. The demonstrators came under attack from Swiss police backed up by German police using water cannons.

According to a report on, "3,000 protesters made it to Davos. Demonstrators there marched backwards between the town's two train stations to symbolize the destructive nature of the WEF's economic policies and hypocrisy of the Swiss authorities and police."

AWTW News Service reported, "Effigies of Bush, Rumsfeld, and Sharon moved amongst the crowd, with the Bush effigy holding a U.S. flag with missiles replacing the stripes under the slogan `We fuck the world.' " Youth hung banners saying "No Business over Dead Bodies," "Leave Iraq in peace, Stop the Bush warriors" and "Against the Terror of `Free' Markets."

A theater director told the press, "I came from Berlin to take part, to demonstrate against this new robber baron capitalism, this ultra-imperialist policy in which the world's most powerful countries unite to loot countries of the resources they need--for example oil in Iraq--and then use them to pay for the war and destruction."

Later on, 1,000 people who couldn't make it to Davos returned to Berne where they demonstrated and fought with the police in the streets.

In Porto Alegre, people from all over South America and the entire world came together at the WSF during Jan. 23-28. Over 130 countries and thousands of unions, NGOs, and political, anti-globalization, and environmental groups were represented. All kinds of different politics and ideas could be seen at the WSF. Many involved in the WSF seek to reform capitalism and "make it workable," while others are looking for more radical solutions.

In addition to many meetings, workshops, cultural performances, encampments, and conferences, this year's WSF saw two massive protests--a "March for Peace, Against Militarization and War" and a march at the closing of the forum against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and U.S. war on Iraq. The linking of opposition to the U.S. war with opposition to capitalist globalization is a significant and new development with this year's WSF.

At least 30,000 participated in the March for Peace. A report from "Rabble News" said the final march was so large it took more than an hour to leave the launching area and went on for hours: "With a contagious energy and a brilliant array of color the World Social Forum burst onto the streets of Porto Alegre yesterday evening. More than 120,000 people rallied and marched through downtown with banners, puppets, drums, chants, and songs."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497