[Pga_europe_process] Social Forum

rgnunes at riseup.net rgnunes at riseup.net
Thu Jul 1 18:00:28 CEST 2004

dear dianu

i'm from brazil -- and lived for seven years in porto alegre -- which
means that i've had some involvement in the wsf from the start. i'm now
living in london, where, like javier and a few others, have tried to open
up space for grassroots and non-hierarchical organizations in the esf.

i agree -- and i think so do you -- with tapio in what he says about the
wsf being a useful tool for meeting people, networking and discussing
common projects with other groups.

one of the problems in the reading of the sf process that many groups who
have not become involved in it have is precisely that, looking from the
outside, the whole thing looks as like one monolithic block. then we can
worry that the 'wsf does this' or the 'wsf thinks that', or even that the
wsf is part of a larger conspiracy to co-opt and supress real, grassroots

it has been said that the origin of conspiracy theories is that you refuse
god and then ask what is in its place; that is, there is always a hint of
an idea that someone, somewhere is 'ruling the universe'. i think the
picture with the wsf is at once more simple, and more omplicated than

more simple in the sense that, if one analyses its origins, i think it's
clear that there is no (or at least not a single one!) conspiracy there.
the groups that started it -- like the cut, the mst and the cpt in brazil,
which are rooted in the grasroots movements that gave origin to the pt i
brazil in the 80s, plus others with a ngo background (abong, cives), and
attac -- show us a variety of approaches and understandings of the
movement, and the fact that these should come together to start something
like the wsf tells us a lot about the political reality of brazil, where
the pt had (probably not anymore!) a bridging effect, bringing different
forms of struggle -- from the more radical and grassroots to the more
palatable, media-frinedly ones -- together. this is why even for a more
radical organization such as the mst there seemed to be no issue in
getting money from things such as the ford foundation.

this is reflected nowadays in a variety of views in the international
council -- from those who want to go on getting money from the ford
foundation and envisge the goal of the struggle as some sort of
world-social-democracy (like attac) to those who want a more radicalized,
less big-event-minded forum (like via campesina and the social movements
network). this means that everything is more complicatd, because things
are not as clear cut as we'd like them to be: some radical groups may feel
that they're better off working with moderates, who can help them get
funding and strike a relationship with governments and other 'official'

yes, there are many 'dark forces' at play in the sf process -- i wouldn't
say a usa conspiracy, but i'd mention the fourth international (forever
entartaining thoughts of co-opting movements and becoming an important
international force) and reactionary trade unions.

but the problem with seeing it as a monolithic 'organization' is that it
misses many important points. first, that there is no central hand
controlling the whole thing; the esf in the uk now is totally different,
in terms of the groups involved and, unfortunately, also those dominating
it, from the wsf and even the previous esf. second, that no matter how
much is up to the international council and the local organizing
committees (deciding plenary speakers, for example), there's only so much
they can do to 'control' the thing: last year in paris, for example,
despite the effort of the european trade unions to push forward their
watered-down reformist agenda, the movement that was the 'talk of the
town' were the 'intermittents du spectacle', who weren't involved in
organizing the big event, but managed to make themselves visble and to
radicalize it; the same applies to the dalits in india, early this year.

this is because, third, the social forums are very porous, open things;
you don't even have to pay a registration or attend a meeting to be inside
them -- all you need to do is to be there at the time, and do your own
thing (be it networking, organizing activities, direct actions) to be
'part' of it.

the reason why i've become a non-hierarchical activist (not that i ever
was hierarchical -- perish the tought! --, i mean when i became
politicized) was precisely because i came to understand power not as a
scarce commodity that some own and others don't, but as a circulating
medium in social interactions. i don't think we can understand the state
in terms of 'they have the power and we don't', and the same goes to
social forums. we are as active as 'they' are, and if they are the ones
who attend the meetings, we are the ones who can take to the streets, or
do our own networking activities, and enlarge our networks.

a final point about social forums is that, precisely for being more
'respectable', they have become more powerful in the post-9/11
environment, where the criminalization of the movement became stronger
than ever. this is another reason why i think they should be occupied and
radicalized, so that its 'respectability' does not become mere moderation
and empty reformism. on the level of spectacle, we can't deny that social
forums have worked; we can, and i think we should, use them to the
advantage of radical, grassrots struggles.

sorry for the long email. this is a very rich discussion, and one it'd be
great to go on having in this list and in belgrade.

till then


> Dear Tapio,
> I agree with you regarding the participation of very interesting people,
> groups and movement in the Social Forum, and other forums like the
> Mesoamerican Forum, etc. I have attending the Mesoamerican Meeting and
> others like that myself (and i really dislike strongly them) and I want to
> continue doing it if I need to. In fact if I don´t go this summer to the
> Mesoamerican (parallel to the "Against dams and privatization of water,
> etc" and the "week on biodiversity" in El Salvador, is exclusivily because
> of lack of funds for the travel. But in fact we are promoting a LA meeting
> of PGA to take place (out of the oficial meeting of course), for various
> reasons, I am  not going to enter now. And in fact the serious good
> grassroot contact we have in Costa Rica we made in such MM. But
> legitimazing the forum with the presence of the social movement or our
> colectives in coordination preparatory meetings and being in fact part of
> the body is another thing. But even bit by bit, as far as the other
> political process as PGA, starts to get strong in a region, participation
> in this spaces should be minimize to avoid legitimation and specially
> creating a false image of the alternative spaces, strongly attacked by the
> SF and other social networks depending on SF and NGOs.
> Some of the organizations part of the PGA process in Asia, attending in
> January both meeting, some even the three meetings: WSF, People´s
> Encounter
> II and Mumbai Resistance. But not as organizers. And the analisies, as I
> told, were quite clear and powerful regarding the WSF and the reasons of
> its existance. I heared things like "WSF is an invention of USA, and
> funding by big TNCs through their big NGOs as Ford Fundation,  to control
> the protest and the movements". Well, in my opinion things are not so
> simple, of course. But if you compare this situation with Latin America,
> is
> quite different. In Latin America, where NGOs are really more powerful and
> have most space for manipulating and using the movements, the WSF is eaten
> all spaces. The former convenor of PGA from farmers, are now organizing
> the
> Americas Social Forum. At the same time, PGA is getting invisible there.
> Of
> course, it is not so simple the evaluation of the reason of such
> invisibility, but one thing is clear: organizations don´t want to be
> isolated, they want to meet with other interesting organizations, bla,
> bla...
> There is also special cases like Colombia. If I have to go to the European
> Parlament to collect the shitty signatures of shitty european
> parlamentaries to prevent a masacre, I will do it, without any hesitation.
> But I know which is my place,which are very puntual and necesary contacts,
> which are very coyuntural necesary alliance (without loosing my nord and
> the clarity in "the target and the way to get the target" even during
> "those coyuntural alliances"),  and which is long term work, allianze and
> project.
> So for me,  attending the Social Forum could be necesary in a puntual
> moment, regarding contacts and collecting information. But even regarding
> contacts, I would say, that onces you have a trustful entrance in a
> country
> or region, it is more useful and efficient to travel through the regions,
> visiting the movements and understand local situation. Because also many
> times, the "interesting" people of the Social Forum can tell many stories
> and at the end being only one visit card or a very shity organization.
> Helping organizing Social Forum at this time of the strugle, I think is
> useless, energy eating and in somehow legitimazing the space.
> But I don´t know the situation now in Europe, not also how discussion has
> been developed laterly. As I said, I didn´t have time in the moment to get
> into the discussion. This is why I would like to speak with Javier, to see
> how things are and what are his expectations, since knowing Javier, and
> really having a lot of trust in his political analysis, I think that maybe
> there is more there that I have though about.
> Saludillos,
> trasgu
> At 22:55 24/06/2004 +0300, Tapio Laakso wrote:
>>About participating to Social Forums.
>>I think the point in participating Socila Forums could be the simple
>> thing
>>that there are lots of interesting people, groups and movements around.
>>For example considering ESF, the presence of immigrants, sans-papiers
>>movements is important. That makes ESF a formu where it is possible to
>>create contacts and networks with these people.
>>On the other hand we did not participate Finnish Social Forum this year
>> as
>>only ones present are old leftist that are present everywhere anyway.
>>Another year we participated because we were able to arrange interesting
>>speaker there whose travel costs someone else paid.
>>Of course Social Forums won't change anything but if it is posible to
>> meet
>>good people and share some radical thoughts then why not? We really
>> should
>>not make another "purity issue" out of this =)
>>On Wed, 23 Jun 2004, diañu burlon wrote:
>> > I promised Vanja to come back  Europe in a couple of weeks. ( I am
>> stucked
>> > in Delhi). Are you going to be around? I really would like to disscuss
>> with
>> > you regarding the social forum. What on the hell are you doing there?
>> I
>> > really don´t understand why lost energy and time in it. More. I don´t
>> > understand why to be there to legitimaze it. I read a couple of emails
>> on
>> > the issue months ago, but I didn´t want to enter into the discussion.
>> But I
>> > was very surprise that someone wrote that we will be isolated as
>> movements
>> > if we don´t participate. If that is the case,  I really want to be
>> > isolated. It is clear that the biggest strengh of PGA Asia is the good
>> > analisis they have of those spaces and the radical position of the
>> > movements, and don´t let themselves to be eaten by such spaces, as it
>> is
>> > happening in LA.  I don´t think it is a question of spending hours
>> > critizazing the WSF, who funds it and so on, but...whatever, I would
>> really
>> > like to hear your opinion  regarding this issue.
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > kisses,
>> > trasgu
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > At 15:27 22/06/2004 +0100, javier wrote:
>> > >Dear WE Zapatistas
>> > >
>> > >I can only assume you were writing about me. I am sorry about the
>> delay
>> > >in my reply, I was in the ESF preparation meeting in Berlin, very
>> hard
>> > >work.
>> > >
>> > >Lets clarify a few things. I didn´t write the lines below. I quote
>> > >replied to another message.
>> > >
>> > >It is true that we had a discussion on the word ghetto in Belgrade,
>> > >where people explained the different arguments for and against its
>> use
>> > >in this context. That's why in my letter to Nina I actually wrote
>> > >"breaking self-imposed ghettos" a formulation I find appropriate, and
>> > >you can call me whatever.
>> > >
>> > >I am getting used to people using identity politics as a way to end
>> > >discussions. It happens all the time in the UK social forum, where
>> the
>> > >diverse SWP front groups morally blackmail us on these lines: "If you
>> > >are against my politics you are against all the million
>> > >refugees/women/migrants, etc..." corollary: you are a racist/sexist,
>> > >etc. We were even accused of being against Nelson Mandela for
>> demanding
>> > >a proper democratic process for choosing guest star speakers!!
>> > >
>> > >What I find quite sad is to see the same thing happening in the PGA
>> > >process.
>> > >
>> > >This takes me to the next point: my forthcoming holiday in Belgrade.
>> I
>> > >was hoping the ESF would put me a proper bureaucrat dacha by the
>> Black
>> > >Sea, but things are not as good as in the old days... so I will have
>> to
>> > >settle by sharing a dusty field with lots of lousy dreadlocked
>> > >anarchohippies. I just hope there are no cameras! Rather dead than
>> seen
>> > >having gone so low in life.
>> > >
>> > >I admit this is my motivation, but not what I told my Essex Zapatista
>> > >friends, they could only be guessing. What I told them was that I was
>> > >spending a lot of energy working behind the lines in enemy field, ie
>> the
>> > >ESF process, to carve out space for the type of non-authoritarian
>> > >politics we share around PGA of decentralisation, autonomy,
>> diversity,
>> > >etc. And that I really didn't have the energy to engage with their
>> > >arguments, or more precisely with their style of arguing.
>> > >
>> > >What could have been understood as a holiday is that I said that for
>> me
>> > >the ESF was the place to fight with all the SWP, etc, and the PGA the
>> > >place were we could have a different dynamic, less emotionally
>> draining.
>> > >You can read this as the difference between politics and holiday, or
>> as
>> > >someone who hopes one day politics will be modelled on something
>> other
>> > >than war and conflict, and we could be that beginning.
>> > >
>> > >ciao, javier
>> > >
>> > >
>> > >On Thu, 2004-06-17 at 07:16, paki.tv at cyber-rights.net wrote:
>> > > > -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
>> > > > Hash: SHA1
>> > > >
>> > > >
>> > > >
>> > > > On Tue, 15 Jun 2004 06:37:59 -0700 javier <javier at spc.org> wrote:
>> > > > >Global movement : Are we a mouvement ? what next ? Going out of
>> the
>> > > > >ghetto ? : skrati[AT]yahoo.com / javier[AT]spc.org
>> > > > >>
>> > > >
>> > > > We have had a discussion about the use of the word Ghetto and its
>> use
>> > > > in this way has been shown to be racist.
>> > > >
>> > > > What does that mean?
>> > > >
>> > > > It means that when discussions are put out with this heading, is
>> thta
>> > > > most Black people will be less inclined to attend the conference
>> because
>> > > > they know the organisers are taking the piss.
>> > > >
>> > > > As this is an issue which has already been raised, I can only
>> assume
>> > > > that the use of it here is deliberate, a sort of "hardboy"
>> machismo
>> about
>> > > > not caring for sissy quibbles.
>> > > >
>> > > > After the postponement of PGA meeting the author spoke to us
>> dissmissively
>> > > > suggesting that the issues we were raising were trvial.
>> > > >
>> > > > This is how institutional racism works in the PGA.
>> > > >
>> > > > The final insult was to be told that they considered their work in
>> the
>> > > > European Social Forum as their real political work, and PGA as a
>> holiday
>> > > > . . . this from a person who the PGA paid to go to a preparatory
>> meeting
>> > > > in Belgrade.
>> > > >
>> > > > How can these issues be left to the conference when it is
>> precisely
>> now,
>> > > >  just as Nico himself pointed out, the white middle class guys are
>> going
>> > > > around dominating.
>> > > >
>> > > > Seems like these alternatives to capitalism are simply the same
>> old
>> "shit"
>> > > > (to use one of Nico's favourite terms) in new bottles.
>> > > >
>> > > > That's all for now, folks!
>> > > >
>> > > > West Essex Zapatista
>> > > >
>> > > >
>> > > >
>> > > > -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
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>> > > > oL3Q2aDTxCXHljdbys6kRtAKjrYu
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>> > > >
>> > > >
>> > > >
>> > > >
>> > > > Get your free encrypted email at http://www.cyber-rights.net
>> > >
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>>Tapio Laakso
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