Wednesday 13th - Sunday 17th October 2004
Spaces of diversity, creativity, politics and pleasure. Five days of self-organised events and actions around the European Social Forum (ESF) - a celebration of resistance, organised without funding from government, or political parties.
Across a variety of venues, ranging from legally hired spaces to squatted social centres, there's a huge array of free events including presentations, workshops, discussions, trainings, and skill share. There's also tactical media making, radio streaming, film screenings, live bands, comedy, parties, street theatre, interventions, actions and more.
Events focus on a range of themes that concern, inhibit and limit our daily lives and freedoms, but also demonstrate our forms of resistance: challenging social control and surveillance, building solidarity with invisible workers and migrants, examining our relationships with the urban landscape and supporting occupied social centres, taking to the streets with carnivals, clowns and sound systems, creating our own media, defending our right to protest, exploring a Life Despite Capitalism, and building networks Beyond the ESF.
WHY AUTONOMOUS SPACES?
As tens of thousands of people converge on London for the three days of the Official ESF, the Autonomous spaces wish to state clearly that they recognise, value and support the energy, diversity, and experiences of those attending the ESF. Indeed many groups and individuals will participate in events both inside and outside of the main ESF.
However, while the ESF event itself may be an amazing political gathering, a diverse range of people from the UKs vibrant, active groups and communities have refused to get involved in the ESF process, or have pulled out of it - the question needs to be asked - WHY?
Many people believe that the process of organising the ESF is just as important as the event itself, if not more so. Others believe that it represents the recuperation of grass roots struggles. What is clear though, is that the social forum passes by in a whirlwind of packed schedules crammed into just a few days, yet the organising process takes almost a full year. It is in the organising process that the real opportunity to build networks and solidarity lies. And yet it is this process which has been so flawed, and which has contributed directly to the creation of the Autonomous Spaces.
AUTONOMOUS SPACES AND THE ESF
Looking back but moving forward....
But it's not just grassroots environmental and direct actions groups that have been critical of the ESF processes. Recently a coalition of the major UK trade justice and environmental NGOs wrote in a letter: "Many British NGOs are keen to get involved in the ESF but have found it difficult to do so because of the lack of transparency and openness in the UK process".
The Autonomous Spaces themselves are made up of groups from many different backgrounds, with many political visions, that do not have, nor represent, one single unified position on the ESF.
It is important to say that there are some who believe "Another ESF Is Possible". Throughout the last year they have fought inside the process to "democratise" the ESF, and as such their criticism is borne from direct experience and cannot be dismissed. They believe the co-option of the esf process and the financial manipulation of power by authoritarian organisations (Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Action, and representatives of London's Government - the GLA) represents the hijacking of the democratic and participatory principles of the Social Forum.
Some believe that it is possible to rebuild the ESF to make it closer to the ideals it claims, and to build a truly participative process, but others - after their experiences -believe this is simply not possible.
Then there are others who stand in opposition to the ESF because they believe it only represents a space of recuperation of struggles, a space that does not promote the overcoming of capitalism, but only its preservation with a more "human face".
There are finally those who prefer to define themselves by what they do, and are not interested in identifying themselves in relation to ESF.
"We all however are united in our diversity and in our desire to act together in ways that respect these differences"
So, instead of standing idly by while the ESF claims to be the new representative body of "sensitive, political active citizens", we want to demonstrate "another possible world" - a world which is already here today...
The world of... Autonomy, Self-Organisation, Solidarity and Sustainability.
Full Programme Out Soon
- for now follow the individual links here: