June 5, 2003
State plenary of solidarity economy in Brazil
Marcos Arruda

In October 2002, the opposition list to the neoliberal government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, led by Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, from the Workers Party, won the national elections in the second turn, with absolute majority of the votes of 105 millions of voters. In December, the Brazilian WorkGroup of Solidary Economy (BWG) that was formed in 2001 to prepare, in collaboration with networks and forums of solidarity economy of other countries and continents, the events of the World Social Forum, organized a process of lobbying so that the transition team that was preparing the policies and structures of the future Lula Government would include in its priorities a responsible instance for the Solidarity Economy. This implied to convince the future rulers that Solidarity Economy was more than a compensatory politics of unemployment and the precarization of employement operated by the neoliberal politicians of the 8 years of Cardoso Government.

Victory! One week ago, the National Secretariat of Solidarity Economy (SNAES) was created by a Temporary Measure signed by President Lula, and Prof. Paul Singer assumed the secretary’s position, with a small team, in the institutional context of the Ministry of Work. For months, we have been dialoguing with Singer and his team on the relationship between the Secretariat and Civil society, be it the sector of the so-called Popular Economy - the thousand forms of popular initiatives, most informal, oriented more than everything towards mere survival -, be it the more organized sector that is acting in the construction of the Solidarity Economy. Singer is an exemplary organic intellectual. "I will be the Secretary, but at the service of them who are building this society. You are the ones that are at the heartd of construction of concrete experiences, selfmanaged initiatives, networks, solidarity productive chains, events of Solidarity Economy in the WSF. I have to learn from you If you allow me, I hope to be able sometimes to sit with you in the meetings to listen and to learn." Humble and welcoming attitude, strange enough for an intellectual that returns to state political life.

Starting from these dialogues, the GTB decided to stimulate the achievement of State Plenary of Solidarity Economy in the whole country, in preparation for the III National Plenary, to be carried out in Brasília by 26-29/6/03. The main objective of the III Plenary is the creation of the Brazilian Forum of Solidarity Economy (FBES). Its nature and way of operating, as well as its relationships with state governments and other sectors of society are topics for the debate in the III Plenary. Fifteen out of the 27 states are carrying out Plenaries. The GTB prepared a document with proposals of principle that would be the basic elements of a common project, challenges and orientations for the realization of State Plenary. It requested to the Plenary to chose people who would come to participate to the III National Plenary, according to some criterias that include a majority of grassroots participants (active in solidarity initiatives), a state representation proportional to the participants’ number in each Plenary, etc. Several states already carried out their Plenary, other are preparing them for the coming weeks. Very important is the presence of agenda of contents and crosscutting topics that sum up around concepts as " Solidarity Productive Chain" and "Network of Solidarity Collaboration".

Were also present in the Plenary people that act in groups or cooperative of production of goods (sewing, metalurgy, civil construction, food, handicraft, and others) and services (consultantship, cooperative management, transport, solidarity finance and others), likewise cooperatives of consumption or collective purchases, groups dedicated to the commercialization and popular movements (neighbours associations, trade unions, Central of Popular Movements) and state agents (above all municipal governments’ members who promote Solidarity Economy). These already carried out three meetings, involving Secretary of Work, local development and others, aiming to the formation of a Forum of Public Agents. In the GTB we have some agents’ participation and together we have defined already, as high-priority axes for the FBES, the debate on its identity and constitution, its role of social mobilization and as a speaker list with the SNAES.

Regarding the nature and identity of the FBES, the dominant opinion up to now is that the FBES should have a galvanizing and articulating role, facilitating above all the development of solidarity productive chains and networks that would be articulated at inter-state and national level, and not limited to the relationship with the SNAES or other government’s sectors.

Regarding the axes for discussion of public policies, are present seven of them: (1) solidarity finance (it includes social money), (2) legislation, (3) solidarity productive chains and networks (it includes ethical consumption as a first reference of the productive chains and networks), (4) technology and knowledge (it includes development and sustainability), (5) organization of the movement (forum, Council, Networks), (6) solidarity education/ formation (it includes vision, values, gender and ethnic, cultural transformation, integral development) and (7) solidarity communication.

The questions that will be work topics in groups are: (1) who are we and how are we organized? (2)what territorial articulation (local, municipal, state, national) or sectoral exists or would it be neecsary to build? (3) what is uniting us? what project have we in common? (PRINCIPLES) (4) which public policies do we want (PLATFORM OF ACTION around seven axes) (5) Which are the main challenges to strengthen the movement of Solidarity Economy? (6) what Fórum Brasileiro do we want (conception, composition, dynamics/continuity)? (7) Report with other actors (governments, traditional cooperativism, etc.) and the FBES project? (8) what future agenda (high-priority actions, even WSF-Brazil, WSF2004-Mumbai)? Obviously, the topics of the WSSE and the Alliance are present in diverse ways in the agenda of the Plenary debates. And the synthesis aim to very valuable propositive documents for the deepening of the dialogues that are developed in the WSSE workshops and the socioprofessional groups of the Alliance. We commit to do another report on the III Plenary and the future agenda, to share it with the WSSE and the Alliance, as with the articulated networks for the events of the national, continental and World SF.