The first event, titled “Future and perspectives for the ESF - WSF”, was held on Friday 14th of October 2004 in the Alexandra Palace of the English capital. The seminar was facilitated by Hugo Braun of the German Social Forum.
The risk of repetition
The first speaker, Raphaella Bolini (Italian coordination for ESF), started by reminding that the ESF risks repetition and tradition. Many people outside the process often ask what are the outcomes of the ESF. “It is important not to go along the same road without thinking, but it is important to have the right goal,” she said.
“We cannot aim a radical and immediate change in politics, we must break the ideology in the mind of people and push citizens to be more active.”
Participation from below
There were concerns about the mass movement approach. People start dreaming, others see in the social forum process the birth of a worldwide political party. For Raphaella Bolini, this is a mistake: “We must build the participation from below.” Some examples mentioned include the anti-war movements (against war outside Europe) and anti-racist movements (against war against migrants, inside Europe). “We must resist as a movement, not as a political party,” she concluded.
The following speaker, from the Greek Social Forum, exposed a few problematics related to the organisation of the ESF. “We put too much efforts on organising, not on the discussion itself, it doesn’t leave sufficient time to take action afterwards,” she said.
Jacques Nikonoff, president of Attac France, then insisted on building clear alternatives to neo-liberalism, to have them debated at the Social Forums so that they are implemented locally after a forum. “We must use the work frame built by the ESF to go further.” The grey times from the conservative revolution in the early 1980’s were a disaster, but “the movement today gives new hopes.” Multilateral government initiatives, such as the G8, are very well organised. Social movements must do more.
There was a strong emphasis on providing alternatives. Jacques Nikonoff underlined the need to find the black holes where social movements still do not provide alternatives. For example, few alternative solutions are provided for unemployment and free trade issues, as if neo-liberalists were the only ones who could answer this question.
“We must look at this with a historic perspective. The syndalist movements, for example, exists for more than 100 years and had ups and downs with time.” “We must not be impatient,” he reminded.
What needs to be changed?
The seminar facilitator, Hugo Braun, then asked the participants their opinion about what needs to be changed in the social forum process.
“We should not change, but to go deeper, to find more links between movements”, said Raphaella Bolini. As an example, she compared the difference between two movements: anti-war activists and social rights activists. “We must avoid to put them in contradiction. War is used against social rights.”
The other speakers agreed. Chris Nineham of Globalise Resistence (UK), gave the example how recent war conflicts have tried to put the “western world” against the “islamic world”, in order to hide the debate between rich and poor inside societies. “Militarisation is an armed wing of neo-liberalisation,” he concluded.
To be fast we must proceed slowly
Jacques Nikonoff reminded the participants about two important issues related to the organisation of the social forums. There is the World Social Forum and European Social Forum every year, combined to regional and local initiatives. “The rythm must change,” he insists. An alternative discussed would be to have European and World Social Forums every 2-3 years, but stronger local initiatives.
On the other hand, it is important to enlarge the discussion and reach more people. “Certain groups of people work all year on very important issues, but they do not have the opportunity to present the results of their work.”
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Initially published on Social Rights Bulgaria ( http://www.socialrights.org/spip/article793.html)