Try Red Pepper in print with our pay-as-you-feel subscription. You decide the price, from as low as £2 a month.

More info ×

The fertility of the borders: the Caracol Intergalactika at the WSF 2005

An Intergalactictika 'Laboratory of Global Resistance' has been organised at every World Social Forum (WSF) Youth Camp since Porto Alegre 2002, existing as a convergence centre for horizontal activists from different places to meet, plan and network.

March 1, 2005
4 min read

Its name signals the conspicuous absence from the WSF of the EZLN (or Zapatistas), a common reference point for groups involved in the alternative globalisation movements. This year the reference was strengthened by the addition of a new name, Caracol, alluding to the local governments in Chiapas. The space hoped to capture some of their spirit of autonomy and self-management. It was planned accordingly, with an open, internet-based process starting as early as June 2004 and involving activists from countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, UK, USA, Italy and Spain.

Instead of the traditional WSF workshop-panel framework or a loose assembly-based structure, the Caracol offered one-off workshops, ‘micro-processes’ (a succession of workshops and/or meetings on the same issue), large debates and open everyday meetings to evaluate and organise the process as a whole, as well as video sessions and performances most nights. The ‘micro-processes’ proved to be great tools for networking: three days of debates produced tighter coordination between activists organising the resistance to the G8, FTAA and WTO summits in 2005, as well as the creation of a European/ Latin American network of research activists and a call for a Global Day of Action against Intellectual Property. The Caracol also provided space for the birth of the anti-consumerist Yomango Brazil, as well as the first joint action between Yomango groups of three countries, Argentina, Mexico and Chile; it enabled a full day of organising and planning for the Brazilian Free Public Transport Campaign, and, following various theoretical and practical debates on clowning led by the UK’s Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army, the appearance of clown armies in three different Brazilian cities.

This year’s edition made some progress towards overcoming the limits of the essentially urban, young and white profile of previous years. This was evident in the workshops of Brazilian homeless and Bolivian peasant movements, as well as in a session on Zapatismo and Militarism. Moreover, the theory of autonomous politics and horizontality was made so much more real and urgent by the moving accounts of daily struggle in conversations with the Unemployed Workers’ Movements (MTDs) of Solano and La Matanza and the Situaciones Collective, both from Argentina.

The Caracol inhabited the border between the Youth Camp and the ‘main’ WSF site, placing itself in a position not only to criticise but also to physically embody the critical tensions inside the social forum process. This position was perhaps made most visible in an open-mic session with members of the WSF International Council (Virginia Vargas, Christophe Aguiton, Teivo Teivanen, Immanuel Wallerstein) and the Brazilian Organising Committee (Moema Miranda, Fatima Mello, Chico Whitaker).

The debate challenged the WSF process from the perspective of autonomous spaces and the horizontal groups involved in them, as well as other ‘marginal’ experiences such as the Youth Camp and the Argentinean Social Forum. Although the changes in the methodology and the overall organisation of the WSF 2005 were applauded, many issues remained: the lack of transparency and openness of the Forum’s International Council and the critique of their representative logic; the sources of the funds for the event; the focus on size rather than quality of the political process; the preference given to corporate instead of community and alternative media; the hijacking of the political capital of the WSF by self-appointed ‘representatives’, or President Lula, who had a few days earlier announced he was going to Davos to speak ‘on behalf’ of the WSF. The intervention of a Mapuche woman complaining about her own exclusion even in the indigenous space was particularly harsh, as was her criticism of the fact that Grupo Santander, a Spanish Bank that has been investing aggressively in Argentina, had contributed funds to the WSF.

More generally, the Caracol showed the advantages of decentralised, horizontal, networked organisation. It sought to substitute a logic of accumulation and linearity by one of connection, with no ready-made answers but rather a sentiment of, as the Zapatistas say, ‘Asking as we walk’. The Caracol did not have to contend with the unmanageable size of the ‘official’ WSF: its attempt to root politics in human relations and the quotidien struggle of communities on a level that necessitates direct engagement with each other, was made easier by the smaller number of participants in this space. Critics might still argue that the process was not rooted enough in real practical alternatives, and that it did not really overcome its White Middle Class Urban identity at its core. Nevertheless, as participants, we came away with a real sense of having established new connections. In contrast to today’s alienated capitalist social relations, it was refreshing to enter a space that put affective relations at the heart of network-building and political struggle.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced

India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya

North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero

The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava

France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati

This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help

PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank

Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media

I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to

We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS

Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank

Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland

Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones

The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya

The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.

An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe