Porto Alegre 2002: A Tale of Two Forums


  • James Petras






The Social Forum (SF) which took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil on February 1-5, 2002 attracted nearly 70,000 participants, including over 15,000 delegates from almost 5,000 organizations. Delegates came from 150 countries to participate in twenty-eight conferences, 100 seminars and 700 workshops. Over 3,000 journalists from radio, TV, newspapers, and magazines covered the event. As the first major anti-neoliberal globalization event since September 11 and the assault on Afghanistan, the SF refuted the Bush-Rumsfeld propaganda line that the people of the world had to choose between U.S. imperialism or Islamic terrorism. Porto Alegre demonstrated that the worldwide "anti-globalization" movement is alive and growing: in 2002, twice as many people participated as in the previous year; there was greater coverage in the mass media (except in the United States); the range of groups and participants was greater than any previous forum; and, finally, the concluding demonstration of 50,000 participants against the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) was the biggest thus far in North or South America. Probably as important as the physical presence of large numbers of people and movements, was the spirit of the Forum. The rousing hope and optimism was reflected in the main slogan, "Here, another world is possible." There was little of the defeatism and demoralization evident in U.S. and Western European intellectual circles after September 11. The hopes for an alternative world were tempered by a recognition that the U.S. military offensive and its unilateralist posture would heighten the barriers to socioeconomic and environmental change.