Walden Bello interviewed at the World Social Forum

by Alejandro Kirk, IPS

Published on TNI, by Inter Press Service, 22 January 2008.

The WSF as an “open space” idea can either be implemented in a liberal direction or in a committed, progressive direction, says Walden Bello.

An excerpt: … IPS: Since the first WSF, Latin America has experienced a spectacular shift to the left, in different shapes. What has this development to do with the WSF? Do you think this process will lead to meaningful change or will it eventually turn righwards?

WB: Well, I think the WSF emerged from a process in Latin America where social movements were, as in Brazil, shaking up the traditional institutions of political representation. The Workers’ Party in Brazil was, in its initial stages, an energetic hybrid of political party and social movement that captured the allegiance and imagination of the masses. However, a new stage was reached when the Workers’ Party became a serious contender for power. It became “professionalized” and began attracting middle class elements that were interested only in limited social transformation. Then, in the last few years, during the Lula presidency, the state and the ancien regime have captured the Workers’ Party.


At the same time, in Venezuela, a charismatic relationship between a populist president and the urban poor became the vehicle for change in a country with weak social movements. Then in Bolivia and Ecuador, we had social movements with strong roots in the indigenous people achieve power electorally and begin, unlike in Brazil, a transformation of the state.

IPS: How do these developments reflect in the WSF?

WB: All of these developments have been reflected in the WSF, where, as in the continent from which it sprang, there are contending political tendencies in the ranks of the people. You have trends that are closer to the People’s Party tendency and others that are closer to the Venezuelan and Bolivian tendency.

What is important though is that the WSF and its associated movements remain independent of governments and parties and maintain their ability to criticize governments when they conciliate the US and neoliberalism, like Brazil under Lula, and lend critical support to governments like those of Venezuela and Bolivia.

They should be able to express broad support for an initiative like the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) while criticizing some of its more controversial plans like the building of oil and gas pipelines from Venezuela to Argentina, which would create ecological problems and destabilize indigenous peoples.

Provided they remain independent of one another, social movements like the WSF and the new progressive governments can develop a healthy, positive relationship. (full interview text).

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