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Bond, Patrick (2008) Gramsci, Polanyi and Impressions from Africa on the Social Forum Phenomenon. WSF Fesitval for Social Change : 1-8.

Peter Marcuse is optimistic that the Social Forum phenomenon can ‘bring together elements of many social movements, afford an opportunity for coalition-building among them, frequently around urban issues, and thus make a significant contribution to achieving such change’ (this issue: abstract). But seen from South Africa, there are a great many structural problems with the model. Indeed, debate currently rages within the independent left — led by the radical urban social movements of Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town — over whether the World Social Forum (WSF) should be embraced, or indeed rejected, if in 2007 South Africa is the host country. (The other serious contender is Kenya.)

To explore and understand the South African activists’ ambiguous sentiments about the WSF requires a scale jump, from the global to the recent Africa Social Forum continental meetings, before returning to uneven prospects for building from the bottom up, instead, via municipal-scale Social Forums or via sectorally-based forums, such as land and food, water, energy, etc, in areas that link urban/rural, red/green, North/South and gender concerns.

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