By Stephen Marks
MANAGUA — A meeting of "the representatives of the workers, peasants and the poor of Latin America" was Daniel Ortega's description of the Third Forum of Sao Paulo, held here from July 16 to 19.
The Sandinista National Liberation Front leader made this observation in his opening address to delegates from 61 movements and parties of the left from 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Also present were observers representing 43 parties and organisations from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Australia.
The forum is named after the city in which the first forum was held in 1990. Initiated by the Brazilian Workers Party, it drew together a large part of the Latin American left. The Revolutionary Democratic Party of Mexico sponsored the second forum a year later. Seminars around specific policy issues have also continued the process of dialogue and interchange between the Latin American left. Forum members describe themselves as "democratic forces with identities that are nationalist, popular and socialist".
The development of alliances and broad fronts incorporating all progressive forces was seen as an absolute necessity in conference discussions. Delegations related numerous examples of left unity in the region.
Argentinean delegates spoke of growing support for the Southern Front alliance of parties in that country. Three federations linked to these parties are now merging together to form a single association.
Through practical and community-based work in poor neighbourhoods, Ecuadoran parties have built significant electoral support for the first time in 50 years.
The Frente Amplio, an alliance of several left parties in Uruguay, has won massive support in a nationally coordinated fight against the privatisation of state enterprises.
Participants stressed that the methods of overcoming oppression vary according to different conditions. The forum accepted the right of member parties to decide their own forms of struggle. In some countries, there are democratic spaces in the electoral process. Several important elections are due in 1994. In other countries the only option is considered to be armed struggle.
In Colombia, for example, the Simon Bolivar Guerrilla Coordinator unites three guerilla armies and has opened up more than 160 different guerrilla fronts in response to increased military repression.
Latin America's oldest guerilla army, the United National Resistance of Guatemala, has forced the government there to the negotiating ts heroic struggle was shown when the UNRG was elected unanimously to the Working Committee of the Forum.
El Salvador was regarded as showing that negotiated solutions to armed struggles are possible.
The Pol Potist actions of Sendero Luminoso in Peru were condemned by an overwhelming majority of the forum.
In many Latin America countries, the left finds itself in a dangerous position. Some neo-liberal regimes are now moving towards military repression after they have wrecked the national economies and living standards of the poor.
The coups in Peru and Haiti were condemned, as was the increasing repression in Colombia and the now unstable Venezuela. Delegates from Argentina alerted the forum that their president, Carlos Menem, has warned the left to stay of the streets unless they want another "dirty war".
Alternative economics to neo-liberalism and new methods of struggle were the central conference themes. Neo-liberalism is the free market religion of privatisation and economic deregulation.
The Declaration of Managua, adopted unanimously as the conference document, stresses the continuing and future importance of the forum as a medium for building alliances and developing alternative strategies.
The declaration also challenges the multifaceted offensive of the North against Latin America and the Caribbean. It exposes the excuse of drugs and terrorism to legitimise intervention. The economic alternatives put forward are based on popular struggle. Demands include the democratisation of the United Nations, the resolution of the external debt, balancing out unequal terms of trade and reorienting the functions of the IMF and World Bank. Ecological and environmental solutions were also given a high priority. The forum rejected any notion of left parties managing a humane version of neo-liberalism.
A series of resolutions condemning the actions of imperialism in Latin America were passed and solidarity with Cuba was specially stressed. Conference proceedings, at times hotly debated, were conducted without exclusionism, sectarianism or arrogance.
International solidarity was another key theme, with the forum deciding for the first time to consider issues outside of the region. This linking with progressive forces in other parts of the world was reflected by the specially invited observers from countries including Malaysia, India, North Korea, China, Philippines and Vietnam. Special individual guests included Marxist economist Ernest Mandel.
As part of this outward-looking approach, the forum decided to hold a seminar in June-July 1993 on the theme of "the left parties versus > in Brussels. Later that year, another seminar will be held in Canada on free trade and Latin America. The fourth forum will be held in Cuba from July 20 to 26, 1993, as an expression of ongoing solidarity with that country.