Q&A: 'The Crisis Has Proved Us Right'

  • Roberto Fuentealba interviews CÁNDIDO GRZYBOWSKI - IPS/TV* (belem, brazil)
  • Tuesday, January 27, 2009
  • Inter Press Service

IPS: The WSF is taking place at a time when the world economic crisis linked to financial speculation continues to deepen, about which there are different points of view: some say this is a crisis of the neoliberal model, while others think it's just one in a series of crises. What's the view from the Forum?

CG: It's difficult to anticipate what such a diverse range of participants will say about the crisis. It's going to be a central issue, that's for sure, but views about the crisis depend on each individual person, what region and country they come from, and all these views are very different. There are also different aspects to consider. This began more visibly with the environmental and climatic crisis, then the food and energy crisis, and finally the financial crisis, which is now making deep inroads into the real economy.

From what I've been able to ascertain, because we're still finalising the programme for the Forum, it looks like climate change and the environment, along with food, are going to receive more focus that other areas, although all aspects will be dealt with.

IPS: A lot of people in the business world are saying that this crisis doesn't threaten the market or cast doubts on the neoliberal model, and that all that is needed is regulation: does this create an opportunity for the Forum to improve its anti-globalisation proposals to governments and international organisations?

CG: As always this is a social dispute. What's new today is that the governments have finally taken the initiative; this means that what we were demanding, from the perspective of civil society, which was more subordination of the economy to political considerations, meaning public intervention in the economy, is now happening. Maybe the essence of neo-liberal capitalism isn't going to change, but it's not going to be like before, when companies would say what needed to be done, and demanded total freedom and an open market, without any controls, to do it.

That's all changed and now the system is going to have increased State oversight and supervision, with greater importance given to public policies. Will it go beyond that? Will we be able to change the course of things in order to install a humanitarian priority, an environmental priority, to attend to the needs of the people and make economic and financial considerations subsidiary? That all depends on our strength.

What is clear, though, is the amazing victory of the social movement. Ten years ago, when we first started discussing the idea to set up a Forum, it was almost impossible to think about alternatives and people just thought we were mad. Now the alternative is growing not just because we demand it, but also because this system can't sustain itself any longer, and has no viable future.

IPS: Were the business people, economists and experts really so unaware?

CG: The only, or the first big financial speculator to state that this system doesn't work was, surprisingly enough, George Soros back in 2002. He wanted to come to the WSF to claim that the free market worked, but not the State, and that we needed more State (intervention), which is strange coming from a speculator.

Although in general, the financial system, all the multilateral financial institutions, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, the World Trade Organisation, the WTO, all these bodies thought this (the free market) was the best bet for economic growth. Now we can see that it was no more than a casino economy, a betting economy, with no real wealth behind the charade, rather an awful lot of suffering for all the people who weren't invited to this outrageous banquet of financial transfers from poor to rich countries. World inequality grew at a staggering rate.

IPS: Some South American presidents have been invited to the Forum in Belém do Pará. Can you tell us anything about this: will they take part? And which presidents have confirmed their participation?

CG: I know that Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia) and Fernando Lugo (Paraguay) were invited by Vía Campesina to events organised by that particular group. I don't think Lugo is coming, but Chávez and Evo have said they would be here.

IPS: In this version of the Forum how can we expect the two approaches within the WSF to manifest: one that defends the Forum as an opportunity for social movements, and another that seeks greater political leverage, and to create a political organisation?

CG: We're certainly going to have an important debate about the Forum and its future. This movement was created to counteract neoliberal globalisation, which now that it's in crisis changes our whole outlook. So we have to move forward, that's certain, although the debate is if we do so as a political organisation or as an open space. That's the discussion. I think that the group, or groups and organisations that defend the nature of the open space are in the majority.

You can also see that we're talking about the challenge of constructing a new political culture, and opportunities to deal with issues that the Left in general, which is still a Left founded on an international socialist movement, didn't have access to, such as considering diversity as a cornerstone of the Forum. This involves women and the issues of indigenous communities, which are not the past but rather may be the future.

Or the issue of climate change, for example, and the environmental crisis, or ethnic problems such as in Brazil, where half the population is condemned to extreme poverty due to very strong racial prejudices. This isn't admitted but it exists.

IPS: Lastly, I'd like you to tell me about the relationship between this WSF and the mass media, because there's going to be a considerable coverage by the community media and media linked to the movements going to Belém do Pará, however: what impact can we expect on the editorial content of large circulation newspapers and on world television and radio channels and networks?

CG: The point of making an impact on the mainstream media and large media outfits is to reflect an event of international importance that is held in a far-off city that not everyone can go to: however, the community radio and alternative media and newspapers that we have do offer a public and alternative space for such dissemination. We're not organized well enough to compete against the dominant forces of the media, so we need to create events that are able to encroach into the mass media and create a news impact, such as the good news about what we're doing so that people in the outside world know that there are people just like them thinking about real alternatives.

This is really difficult, though, because right from the beginning, the mass media was in Davos and was not on our side. It forms part of the World Economic Forum, which we oppose. Maybe now with the crisis they're going to pay more attention to us.

(*This story was published by the independent daily TerraViva of IPS at the World Social Forum in Belem.)

© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Where next?