Back to its origins, and back to the future (some hope), the World Social Forum is celebrating its tenth anniversary in Porto Alegre, the capital of Brazil's southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul. This is where the WSF was born. Created as an alternative to the World Economic Forum, the Opening March has traditionally been about as anti-Davos as possible.
Leading the procession of an estimated 10,000 participants and supporters, a group representing African religions, followed by worker union members, reps of political parties, students, environmentalists, Negro movements, the gay (GLBTT) community, supporters of the Palestinian cause and some protesters calling for the impeachment of the governor of Rio Grande do Sul, Yeda Crusius.
"This march is a synthesis of the Forum. The core feeling is one of diversity, of sharing with other movements. This gives us fantastic energy to keep going throughout the year," explained Calimério Junior, a student member of the Citizen Education Network, an NGO.
Among the many banners and posters, attacks on neo-liberalism, lists of worker grievances and calls for ensuring that national sovereignty is protected when extracting petroleum off the coast of Brazil.
Carrying an enormous red banner, Laurence Gonçalves, announced that he was a representative of the Marijuana March, participating in favor of "public control of the use of drugs" and changes in legislation inside and outside Brazil.
"Control should be in the hands of the citizens, not like it is now, which is chaotic, people dying without medical assistance," declared Gonçalves, who was surrounded by a noisy bunch of supporters.
It was hard not to notice a man covered with mud. He explained he was a member of an alternative community called the Peace Village and the mud was "An expression of our love for Mother Earth."
One of the marchers was the federal deputy (member of the House of Representatives - Chamber of Deputies - in Brasilia), Luciana Genro (P-Sol-RS). She seemed very pleased that the Forum had returned to Porto Alegre. The thing she most wanted the Forum to achieve, she said, was greater coordination among the many organizations and social movements who were present.
"It's a great honor to have all these people who believe that another world is possible here in Porto Alegre," she declared. "Social movements have to unite in their aims even though there are people from different parties involved. Our struggle is for the same goals."
.The anti-Forum even had an anti-anti-Forum group, punk anarchists (that's what they call themselves) who brought up the rear end of the march.
They were upset about the financing of - well, everything: social organizations, social movements and so on. Was it possible that multinationals were paying for part of the Forum?
"The Forum has lost its combative character and independence. Another world is not possible if it is financed by foreign companies," sentenced a school teacher, Daniela Dias.