Message of Boaventura de Sousa Santos to the International Council of the WSF

As the world has been changing around us in the last twenty years, the WSF and, in particular, its IC show three intriguing characteristics: first, the major changes in the world do get reflected in our discussions as they provoke periods of more intense debate; second, the debates become often personal, even insulting and the substantive proposals rarely get to be discussed; third, nothing substantively changes. To limit myself to the more recent period, I distinguish two main moments: 2016 and now. They are different in character but it is an open question whether the differences will be reflected in different outcomes. 2016 was a period of very intense debate, before, during and immediately after the WSF2016 in Montreal. Given the weight of Latin America in the WSF we witnessed at the time a final crisis of the progressive democratic governments of the first decade of the millennium. Many of us had been critical of some aspects such governments (particularly models of development, structural racism and sexism) but our critique never omitted global solidarity. There were intense debates as to what to do in light of the antidemocratic and imperialist elements in the dismantling of such governments. I myself made some substantive proposals not only during the WSF 2016 but also later on as the WSF 2018 in Salvador was being prepared with seemingly renewed energy. Below I paste the proposals I made in December 2017.

2020. We are now in the midst of new period of major changes in the world and as a result they are being reflected in our discussions. The difference between the two periods is that now is democracy and not just progressive democracy that is at stake.  The fascists, old and new are coming to power all over the world. The debates are again intense inside the WSF. Unfortunately they are also revealing the second characteristic: personalized insulting exchanges rather that substantive discussions. It remains to be seen whether the third characteristic will also show. Many people (myself included) are ready to present new proposals and engage in serious debates. Let’s see what happens and hope for the best.

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