Paul Treanor | 28.04.2002 21:11
In the coming months, you will hear more about the European Social Forum, the ESF. It is planned for Florence (Firenze) in November or December. Despite the propaganda you will see here or elsewhere, this is not an open forum. It is controlled by Italian political parties, for the simple reason that they are paying the bill. The ESF apparently does not have access to the generous funding for the World Social Forum in Brazil. (They were sponsored by the Ford Foundation, the German Green Party, and the Canadian Foreign Ministry). The ESF is (so far) reliant on the organisational structure of the Italian parties, and probably on subsidies from city and regional governments where they have influence.
The central organising committee, who apparently already exercise control of the ESF, are named here
Peppe De Cristofaro - Giovani comunisti
Pierluigi Sullo - Carta
Alfio Nicotra - Prc
Tom Benetollo - Arci
Marco Bersani - Attac
Bruno Paladini - Cobas
The dominant influence is that of the Communist Refoundation, the Prc. It is essentially the core of the old Communist Party of Italy, once the largest communist party in the west, but it split after 1989. The Young Communists, Giovani comunisti, are also part of the Prc.
The ARCI was the former cultural association of the Communist Party. It was a huge organisation, with 2 million members and all kinds of activities, down to village level. The downside was, that almost every organised social activity in Italy was supervised, by either the ARCI or the Catholic Church. Based on their tradition, you can expect hundreds of discussions at the ESF, on all kinds of issues - but nothing which is not acceptable to the organisers. There will be an air of chaos and spontaneity, but the final declaration will be exactly as they planned it beforehand. There is also a tradition of passive consumption of statements by prominent intellectuals.
The Carta is a grouping of NGO's who publish a magazine, a website, and organise seminars and campaigns, according to their website. However in Italy no NGO is ever far from a political party. Pierluigi Sullo is the director.
The ATTAC is originally a French lobby for the Tobin Tax. It is part of a wider coalition of economic-nationalist groups in France. Whatever its origins, it ended up associated with the Parti Socialiste, i.e. with the recently humiliated Lionel Jospin. In Italy it seems to be associated with the Democratic Left, the other half of the old Communist Party. See this revealing interview:
Quote: "Tra i tanti volti del movimento No Global, Attac è quello che più piace alla sinistra moderata"
"Among the many faces of the anti-globalisation movement, Attac is the one most acceptable to the moderate left"
Indeed. Attac wants a Tobin Tax, to take huge sums of money from the capital markets, and give it to national governments, but also to NGO's like Attac. To help them to help the poor, of course, of course. Marco Bersani is their Italian representative.
The COBAS is an institutionalised version of 'shop-floor' committees, what their relationship is to the traditional trade unions, I don't know. Paladini is apparently a local Cobas activist in Florence.
What does this mean for the ESF? If it is left to these people, probably that it will be a series of speeches and statements by prominent intellectuals and politicians, mostly Italian. Discussion groups will be primarily organisational, not about issues. The direction of the ESF, and the selection of themes, will be decided before it opens. This is not very different from the style of the World Social Forum in Brazil, so far as I can judge it by reports.
In the next few months, national organising groups will be active in the EU countries. Their attitudes and the issues will vary from country to country. In Britain, the issue seems to be, how much the SWP will control the British contribution to the ESF. However, that is not my problem. Probably the British contribution will be marginal anyway, given the mainly Italian funding and organisation.
What is important is that, once again, the door will be closed, for those who criticise a fundamentally unjust and immoral world order. Worse, the people behind the ESF want to be part of that world order. The ESF is intended to legitimise their claim to 'a seat on the board' at the IMF of the World Bank, or in the EU. What they would most like to see, is that the EU officially incorporates the ESF as a sort of second chamber of the European parliament, with its own share of the EU budget. That is not a short-term prospect, but already the ESF is being 'colonised' by the political parties, in anticipation of its future powers.