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Flight Zurich–Mumbai: A Conversation En Route to the World Social Forum

January 2004

Wow where do I even begin? I finally got access to the media center on the large WSF grounds here in Mumbai (am thanking the higher powers for having registered as media) and am for the third time trying to submit a log because the electricity keeps cutting so i’ll keep it short. I want to backtrack to my trip over here for a minute before moving on to talk about being in Mumbai and the WSF:

The plane was basically one large WSF delegation mainly from Brazil and Western Europe. I did my first interview with Sasa K. Director of an development and social rights organization in Macedonia (former Yugoslav State which gained its independence in 1991; population 2 million) who was sitting next to me. Here are some things he shared with me. “Macedonia has experienced two regional wars (Bosnia and Kosovo) in the mid 90’s and one internal conflict in 2001 since we gained our independence. This means that we were dealing with hundreds of thousands of refugees and internal displacement and as a rights-based organization dealt with integrating people into our society. We also had to negotiate the politics of aid distribution and resettlement. So one of the reasons I am going to WSF is to learn about how refugee and displaced communities organize against exploitation and injustice from aid workers governmental and non-governmental….I come from a racist country and it wasn’t until I went to the WSF in Brazil that I realized that we as people who are dealing and fighting against injustice have more to learn from Southern Africans and Brazilians that from the Northern European groups we deal with. For example in 2002 Macedonia joined the WTO (It was election year and the government was trying to show us that we were “progressing”) After we joined the tariffs on livestock were eliminated and cheap meat from Poland, and other places where farmers are subsidized started flooding are markets putting our own farmers out of business. Because there aren’t many groups like ours we had to deal with this and learn to organize livestock farmers to cope with this problem.

“At the WSF in Brazil I learned from Southern Africans who were dealing with the same issues and you know Northern Europeans wouldn’t know anything about that….they don’t know about hardship the way we do. But our problem in Eastern Europe is that we are pessimistic and people communicate vertically not horizontally because they want to look out for self and to gain power for self. They don’t believe in organizing and mobilizing because that means people have to share power and communicate horizontally.

“I guess that’s what the capitalist game is about and what transition means? Macedonia voted for the war on Iraq for its own benefit and profit and our people are doing the same by not wanting to mobilize. Under Tito, soft socialism at least we had access to health care employment and education. But today with the IMF we are militarizing and that social fabric that used to exist is unraveling. What we need is fair trade; we need to demilitarize and we need to do that on a global level mobilize against the richer nations to stop being exploited. That is why I am here!”

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