ESF 2010 – Old surface, young undercurrents

Singing in the ESF demonstration

The European Social Forum in Istanbul 2010 was fun. As the practical capacity has weakened as shown during the ESF in Malmo 2008 and even more so in Istanbul 2010 there is no host organizer or European Preparatory Assemblies able to provide political direction or a market place of interest to NGOs. The old leadership building its strength on a costly model for participating in the preparatory process have lost its appeal and there is no alternatives in sight. In this situation of uncertainty there is space for experience exchange on agricultural farming in the Mediterranean, initiatives against the repression of climate justice organizers or establishing systematic knowledge of the consequences of the crisis in Central and Eastern European in a way that can influence the total outcome of ESF in spite of being in the periphery. There has always been space at ESF for a myriad of activities, the difference now is that there is a loss of one hegemonic mainly Western European radical mainstream left wing predicable outcome.

ESF 2010 began with a seminar on the future of ESF. There were 3 speakers introducing the subject and 15 making interventions, in total 18. Out of these speakers 2 came from Central and Easterna Europe including Turkey, one from Russia and one from Mesopotamian Social Forum, 16 from the West. One was young, the rest were old, mainly 50 years and above. 4 women were speaking. 6 of the contributors to the debate came from France, 2 from Italy and Belgium and 1 each from Austria, Germany, Greece, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the two Eastern countries already mentioned. Many were left wing trade unionists including the two introductory speakers from the West saying things which everyone could agree to as there is a crisis in Europe not only for the society but also for the social movements. The speaker from Mesopotamian Social Forum included the ecological crisis but was fairly alone. Among the audience there was none from rural or peasants movements and maybe 4 out of 80 environmentalists. Among the more odd left wing syndicalist analysis of ESF was the point made that small NGOs at ESF with lobbying as their main poliical tool was a problem. Such organizations have become very rare in the process at least since ESF in Malmo. More important was the notion that there is a need for more general debate on the linkage between different issues, a proposal made by Via Campesina ahead of ESF 2008 and then rejected by a French trade unionist but now when it is put forward by trade unionists might be excepted. The class, gender and ethnic conscious methodology of the two recent successful US Social Forums was rigthly promoted by several speakers as inspiring and one of few challenges for the ESF future put forward which was concrete although limited to form.

Instead of a lively political reference to a common platform as the World Social Forum declaration or addressing the problems in the region were the global financial crisis is hitting harder then anywhere else in the world which is in Central and Eastern Europe the reference is instead ”the left” and Western European problems which should be addressed at ”the European level”. What this omnipresent term left is or how this European level looks like is not very well defined. Except by the only young voice in the debate coming from Germany and the trotskyist 5th International. This international organization is extremely small and specialized in producing youth activist speeches proclaiming the same solution to every problem, mass mobilization at the European level on whatever opportunistic left wing issue that seems of current interest for the moment, a mass mobilization that should be carried out by others, mainly trade unions. Others at this debate on the future have not much more to offer for the role of ESF than being this left wing support to convince big trade unions to act although using another language.

Young undercurrents beneath the old surface

Struggling collectively for better and cheap or free public transport was one of the answers on the problems of cars dominating the cities and causing environmental problems. And what a struggle. Students from Istanbul showed us at a seminar and asked us all to join. It was a street theatre they performed to make people aware of the problems for students with longer and longer travels by buses they cannot afford.

It all started with an explanation of the situation for students in Turkey and the daily struggle to get to the university. In a corner the music started and suddenly were we all encompassed by the atmosphere of lively streets, moving bodies and the daily controversaries to get on board on the bus. Four green banners demarked the inside and outside of the bus, a driver stopped the students from entering whenever there was something missing, and there was often something missing. But the collective helped and argued and somehow it seamed as if the male bus driver always lost the battle against the mostly female students. Chanting, singing and arguing the student collective and their driver moved on and we all were moved, by the energy of the political statement, the music and the laughs and the joy.

In the next room the Russian Institute of Law had a seminar on right wing extremism. The daily struggle was as present here, in an even more physical form. First they came and beat us with the fists and we had to learn how to fight with fists to. Then they came after us with knives and we had to learn to use knives to. Now they come with pistols, first using rubber bullets and them live ammunition. The leader of the Institute of Law was shot down and killed together with a young journalist right on the doorsteps in the middle of Moscow one and a half year ago. Both participated at ESF in Malmö and were involved in exposing Russian crimes in Chechenya.

The immediate threat of violence is not only present when the young antifascists speaks, Anarchists rather than Communists or Social democrats. It is also very present in an exhibition made by a young artist on antifascism. Here violence is also very present, and the need to fight back. The rebellion in the Sobibor extincition camp in 1943 is a starting point in this presentation of anti-fascism. Some 300 death camp prisoners rebelled under the leadership of the Communist Aleksander Pechersky. One of very few rebellions in the death camps and the most successful. Most of the escapees were hunted down by the Germans and their Ukrainian helpers but more than 50 made it conquering freedom. In total between 150,000 and 250,000 jews losts their lives in Sobibor, 50 survived the war. In the exhibition is also the 150,000 volunteer partisans mobilized to defend Moscow from the enclosing German troops presented as an example. Ulriche Meinhof is also presented as an example of how the children of the Nazis generation rebelled in Germany. But the main focus is on today’s antifascism. The Russian antifascists that get killed, people willing to fight back. The statistics is also there, being an antifascist in Russia is risky. The exhibition ends with a statement on sorrow and pain. The picture that the organizers liked the most was a a human being with the back against the viewer and the muscles without skin upon one of the shoulders with the message under: ”And if somebody says to me: we are the wall. I’ll say I am the shoulder.

The official image in Western Europe of Russia is that it is fixed to the history of World War II as the result of manipulation by the authoritarian government. The maker of the antifascist exhibition cannot be accused of hoping for the Russian or any government to come and help people. It is up to ourselves also in the worst conditions. And in spite of this perspective far from giving up in front of authorities the theme is partly the same as that promoted by official Russia, the efforts made to stop fascism during World War II. But with another focus that both governments and their allies in media industry have in both Russia and the West. That of activists willing to fight voluntarily, often young activists and often if not totally left out in the history making especially in the West. Millions are spent on how horrible the Nazi death camps and war was, but what do we know about the most successful violent revolt in the death camps? The antifascist story does also not end there. It continious until today when the struggle is also a question of life and death.

Statistics on number of people killed and injured by fascists in Russia the last years.

One of the criticism against the Istanbul ESF states:  ”For us the greatest criticism of this forum was its failure to provide non-hierarchical, participative, polycentric spaces in the meetings themselves. With notable exceptions, every seminar or workshop (there seemed little difference between the formats) was conducted in the same way: the ‘experts’ sat at the front, the floor listened to them reciting what they already knew. This series of laborious, monotonous monologues would come to an end, after two and a half hours, to allow for ‘questions’ – and a further 30 minutes of non-sequiturs. Even when direct questions were asked, the sessions were so poorly facilitated that those asked the questions were rarely given the opportunity to answer. All this made engaging and productive dialogue a practical impossibility”. (From Red Pepper, link se below).

This was not a problem for the seminar on right wing extremism. The atmosphere was young, sincere and open minded. An exchange of experience took place and different means of communications including both speaches, videos and the exhibition filling the walls and giving a different character of the space then that of an academic setting. All were young, the organizers, the speakers and almost all the audience. And the speakers did not comment on antifascism, they were antifascism. There also lacked afraidness for being intellectual. The exhibition started with a quote from John Heartfield: ”One has to make an antifascist exhibition, not an exhibition about antifascism. You see the difference?”

Climate justice transition and food sovereignty seminar making the room more suitable for horizontal experience exchange

Many of the environmental workshops and seminars were also vital with many young participants, a lot of experience exchange and young leadership of the political merging process towards a common statement on just transition to solve the climate crisis. The seminar on sustainable transition lost most of the speakers due to misunderstandings and that it was taken out of the Turksih version of the programme. The hieraric way the room and furniture was arranged did not encourage much vital discussions either. But these disadvantages was turned into its opposite. Among the participants there was a lot of experience from both small farmers, trade unions, and environmental activism to turn the seminar into inspiring each other while finding ways to address ways to strengthen direct producers in agriculture and industry  as well as building new ways of direct relationships between producers and consumers promoting both sustainable agriculture, food sovereignty and more power to direct producers and consumers.

The climate justice drafting group in a successful attempt to occupy a piece of grass

The strength of ESF showed itself when an open drafting committee met to discuss the formulation of a climate justice statement from the seminars to be presented at the final Assembly of Social Movements. At such occassions one have to count on very different backgrounds of the drafters, very limited time with few of any more chances to meet, practical problems of finding a place to meet, write a draft, copy and distribute it. The climate justice movement have been bogged down after the successful mass actvities in Copenhagen during the climate summit in a lack of making a difference between defensive and more forward looking strategies. The movement have to a large extent avoided combining a system critical direct action resistance with a broad appeal for sustainable transition addressing questions of interest for people in their daily life. In this way the movement have been caught in either demanding every action and alternative programme to be equally radical and denouncing every bit of defensive actions within the present system as least say the UN negotiations or issues of interest to main stream trade unions as green jobs or environmental NGO pragmatism losing the system critical goal out of sight. Instead of struggle ideology has a tendency to become the most important, to some anarchists the question of work has been seen as adjusting to the system and instead of a constructive program that can give jobs to many access to resources has been seen as the only demand that the movement should put forward. Other see clear ideology as the most important step at the moment, be it degrowth or ecosocialism.

All these dead end streets were avoided quickly. Degrowth was seen by all from very different backgrounds as an important topic to discuss but not to use to frame the whole statement. Instead the issue of work and social revolutionary perspectives were put forward as most important. The issue of the need for broad social alliances was also something that was not necessary to discuss. Within the ESF frame work what can take time in other situations is immediately avoided here as cooperation between social movement is at at the core of ESFand thus a starting point for discussion, not a point to get bogged down by. All reports from different seminars also pointed in the same direction, there is a need for both strong resistance and alternatives. Thus contrary to many other arenas ESF was very useful for finding common system crtitical common ground without getting trapped in one or another mainly ideological main point. The resistance against the main proposed outcome of the ESF Assembly of Social Movements, a call out for participating in the mobilization on the 29th of September against poverty was also clear and yet not secatarian. The slogan made by the European Trade Union Confederation for this event is to demand jobs and growth, soemthing that is contrary to the social-ecological concerns of the climate justice movement. The point was made hilw at the same time the main focus is on establishing own actions in October for System change – not climate change and hopefully influence also other social movements to become more ecologically conscious while promoting a just transition for both rural and urban areas which cannot only solve the climate cirisis but also be a tooo  for social justice and thus provide a much needed alternative vision for the future of Europe.

Parts of the Swedish ESF delegation

There were of course a lot more young undercurrents. To my surprise the Swedish delegation was dominated by many young people interested in environmental, urban agriculture movemnts, trade union issues and the financial crisis. One aspect was that some of the present young researchers were involved in finding out more about agriculture and the situation for the rural population. This young and often female intellectual energy going into issues of less interest to young actvists in earlier times is an interesting phenomena. More predictable was that the visible and vocal youth presence came from small left wing radical groups which is not so much an undercurrent but part of the old ESF pattern. But it is of special interest when it reflects new mass mobilizations as that among students in many countries.

How important are the young undercurrents?

Other observers seems not to notice the young new undercurrents that here is described. One can ask how important they actually are. Before more extensive reporting from ESF in Istanbul is accessible, specially from young activists themselves it is of course har to make a good assessment. But some notions can be made.

Turkish left wing group not afraid of new global environmental and other issues. To a large degree were young activists in Turkey involved in both social and ecological struggles on water, climate, agriculture and public transport.

Firstly it seems as at least among the Western participants the young currents can be divided into those that are fully noticed by observers from small left wing groups and those that are not or rather indirectly seen as a threat to making something mobilizing out of ESF. (See links below) Thus the vocal 5th International trotskyists highlights the strong anticapitalist and antiimperialist messages from the antiwar and education networks during ESF while for the rest sees ”bland NGO” politics in other issues. The young new undercurrents that are involved in system critical agricultural, climate, public transport or antifascism conflicts are disregarded or maybe seen as part of the bland NGO politics to be criticized. A member of the German trade union youth is taken as an example of how bad influence there is from less radical groups not believing in the possibility of ”the idea of developing from the social forum movement, a movement to change the social system.”

So those that take notice of young participation seems unaware of the new system critical undercurrents at ESF. To some degree they have always been there and may not have more weight then earlier. Two factors may show that there is a difference and the young undercurrents goes beyond occasional presence in some seminars and other activities at ESF. One is that the strength of agricultural, rural, water, climate and other envrionmental or social ecological issues to much a degree is built on youth participation and have maintained it steps forward after ESF in Malmö. This interestingly in spite of that central actors in Malmö as Friends of the Earth and Via Campesina promoting these issues was much less present at ESF in Istanbul. The other factors is the central role played by open minded Central and Eastern European youth. There were also quite large youth participation from some Western European countries. The difference is two folded. Altough the CEE participants are involved in many different issues as the social and ecological crisis, antifascism or feminism and come from different at times opposing ideological trends they tend to see themselves more as part of a joint alternative movement and furthermore come more collectively organized often brought by some of the social forum cooperation. While some Western youth seems mainly focused on one aspects as the need for a new methodology at ESF or avoiding or letting small left wing groups dominate CEE youth have a more general view integrating both methodological and political concerns while at the same time being more central in the delegations from their countries. They seem also to have less problems with the old ESF leadership from their countries and in some cases like Ucraine be totally dominated by young activists from different strands.

Your observer resting for a while at a seminar photographed with his own camera by some anonymous activist interested in complete documentation of ESF. The T-shirt states in Finnish We snowmen against global warming.

Conflicts

Under the circumstances of and old left wing and trade unionist leadership in decline and yet still able to make ESF happen according to the ideas of an open space to anyone willing and resourceful enough to make it while new young undercurrents yet has not formed a strong self understanding and presence the conflicts that occured during ESF in Istanbul are to a large degree obscure and short lived though at times disruptive. The visible predictable conflict is between different parts of the left mainly sharing the same urban and trade union bias in loocking at how to move forward while strongly disliking each other. Different trotskyist groups of the smallest kind tries to convince a smaller and smaller number of ESF participants to mass mobilize on an European scale against the social crisis, left wing trade unionists do the same but with less anticapitalist and antiimperailist slogans. The weakness is there for everyone to see. The main outcome at the final Assembly of Social Movement is not to call for a coherent systemcritical mobilization on the issues discussed at ESF with success, but to call for participation in a mobilization called for by ETUC without having an own agenda.

In the seminar on how to struggle against right wing extremism a conflict occured that highlights the problems of ESF and the European social movement. Here mainly Central and Eastern Europeans came together but also Western Europeans to discuss and make contributions from different parts of Europe and different perspectives. In the exchange of ideas a young women from Ukrainian Social Forum came to notify the audience about a climate change meeting that will take place in Kiev. It was clear that the audience had very different back ground from strong antifascists struggling daily to defend their lives to more broad campaigning for tolerance against racism or antifascism seen in the light of the social and ecological crisis and possible to put i a wider context. A German journalist and expert representing a trade union made an excellent overview of the European situation. The diverse discussion though annoyed him so much that he angrily had to state why he left before the seminar closed. The discussion in his view had not at all been about what he had come for addressing the struggle against right wing extremism at the European level. The petty national and diverse contributions did not impress upon him. He did represent a trade union with many million members and he had expected a lot higher quality we understood. At the surface he was fully correct. The discussion had been diverse. The problem is simple. In most countries in Europe the number of actvists and resources are so small that an issue as right wing extremism has to be put into context. Whether this is how right wing politics is part of nationalism with neoliberal practice selling out the national naturqal resources to Western capital causing social and ecological problems like in Southern Caucasus, or that right wing politics is the main force behind climate scepticism and denial of environmental concerns. Many in the audience are well aware of that what they say may not be highly relevant immediately to the topic. But they are also aware of the limitations of the movements and countries they come from and fully willing to learn and see if it is possible to connect experience from different countries, get inspire and do something in spite of not being a trade union with millions of membersor being payed for coming with well researched material on the situation at the European level of right wing extremism.

Turkish activist agricultural action in the ESF demo

Another conflict which I heard about from different sources with very different interpretations seems also interesting and have bearing on the way ESF is heading. Young Turkish activists claimed that rural issues were blocked from becoming important in the Assembly of ecological crisis. The group that especially blocked this Turkish intervention was Anarchists from Germany. The other version was that Turkish activists were unable to understand how their specific national concerns had to put into a wider European level to be of interest in a common statement. In one version the conflict is about disinterest for rural issues, in another version the difference is between more narrow minded national understanding and a more higher European level of thinking.

Thus what we have is an old left calling for action at the European level, seemingly opposing each other whether they are main stream trade unionists, left party of some kind or sometimes even anarchists, all from Western Europe. The mindset seems often to be that of either organization with plenty of resources to have experts on European level negotiations and issues or specialized in European rhetoric and little action. On the other hand we have a more lively participation especially from Central and Eastern Europe. Thus a young women from Armenia can get inspired by the concrete experience of repression during the Climate Summit in Copenhagen last year refering to here many arrests by the police herself back home. National and local experience can be part of a vivid international exchange of ideas.

Dancing during the ESF demo

Conclusions

Politically what we see is a conflict between periphery and center of Europe. Issues, countries and movement regraded as of less importance for the power positions of the European left are systematically and mainly without intent marginalized. With a hard defensive struggle ahead left wingers and trade unionists cling to each other more and more desperately hoping for that well informed, well organized mass mobilization at the European level meaning under Western European leadership with very little interest of rural or environmental issues.

This position in all its forms, from trade unions the left wing parties of all sorts are now disintegrating. New movements like the climate justice movement is no alternative. While the environmental movement with it s long time social justice concerns ir of vital importance for carrying forward a just transition alternative equally important for solving both the ecological and social crisis there are strong deficits. To a large degree the climate justice and environmental movement is a movement without theory with problems of becoming relevant for people in common in their daliy life.

Climate Justice speaker at the final assembly from the UK climat camp movement discuss with Swedish actvist after ESF

The situation is thus more open than ever, and maybe more hopeful for ESF than one could think. The World Social Forums have similar problems but is more vital. It is no coincidence that when Europe failed to support the CEE participatiion substantially it was WSF that in the last minute put forward some resources to enable a larger presence in Istanbul from the region most severely hit by the global financial crisis. The US Social forum is an excellent example on how the forums can be used for social movement experience exchange and mobilization. The advances with the Mesopatiam Social Forum and other forums in the Maghreb region is also signs that the social forum might have a future also in Europe. Because what is the alternative? Where else is all social movement challenged to participate in a common exchange of experience and assemblies to mobilize. The decline of ESF might therefore be a good sign. To at least social forum organizers in CEE coutries Istanbul showed some strenght. For the first time an All-European Assembly could be arranged at ESF with a balanced participation both from the West and the East. Mirek Prokes from Czech Social Forum was pleased with that 21 countries were present and finally 150 participants came from CEE countries in the last minute in spite of that there were only 60 announced some weeks before. The strong young leadership in the CEE delegations is also a positive sign for the future as well as the ideas to continue follow-up by organizing regional events in the All European process and the Prague Spring II network against right wing extremism. Many at ESF from different strands seams also to agree on the need for avoiding the same old formula hoping for an evermore larger ESF but rather becoming more diverse and strengthening both intellectual and mobilizing activities in a joint ESF process. Such a transition period might lead to disintegration but also result into something new more capable of overcoming the mehodological and political problems of the ESF to face the social and ecological crisis and being a mobilizing strength for popualr movements.

Tord Björk

Friends of the Earth Sweden, coordinator of the EU committee

Some links to articles on ESF:

Sad Spectacle in Istanbul
08 July 2010
By Boris Kagarlitsky

The Sixth European Social Forum ended in Istanbul on Sunday. For those who had attended previous forums in Florence, Paris, London and Athens, it was a sad spectacle indeed. There were few participants and the speeches of the delegates resembled a superficial retelling of the discussions that took place at similar meetings in previous years.

There was genuine enthusiasm after the first Social Forum eight years ago.

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/sad-spectacle-in-istanbul/409968.html

Report from the ESF in Istanbul

The sixth European Social Forum was dominated by bland NGO politics and obfuscatory Maoism, about 3,000 people participated in the sixth European Social Forum (ESF) in Istanbul. There were 200 seminars about the economic crisis, climate change, students’ protests and many other topics.

http://www.permanentrevolution.net/entry/3099

Parteien & Demokratie  Montag, 05. Juli 2010
Organisierungsschwäche und relative Orientierungslosigkeit
Das sechste Europäische Sozialforum in Istanbul. Ein Resumee von Urlich Brand.

Im Mittelpunkt des sechsten Europäischen Sozialforums in den ersten Julitagen in Istanbul – nach Florenz 2002, Paris, London, Athen und Malmoe 2008 – stand natürlich die aktuelle Krise. Schwerpunkte waren die Wirtschafts- und Finanzkrise, dieses Mal besonders prominent die Klimakrise und, bedingt durch den Austragungsort, Energie- und Wasserkonflikte.

http://www.rosalux.de/themen/parteien-demokratie/nachrichten/nachricht/datum/2010/07/05/organisierungsschwaeche-und-relative-orientierungslosigkeit/thema/sprachen/parteien-demokratie/priorisierung-regional.html

ESF 2010: Das Europäische Sozialforum am politischen Abgrund        PDF         Drucken         E-Mail
von Martin Suchanek, www.arbeitermacht.de        06.07.2010 – bisherige Aufrufe: 651

„Das Sozialforum ist noch nicht tot, es vermodert nur am eigenen Laib”, so fasste ein Teilnehmer ironisch-verärgert, das Europäische Sozialforum (ESF) 2010 zusammen. ….. Auch wenn es momentan der einzige „Raum” auf europäische Ebene ist, wo Tausende zusammentreffen und hunderte VertreterInnen verschiedener Organisationen die Koordinierung des Widerstandes vorantreiben können, so zeigte sich in Istanbul auch, dass eine große Mehrheit der informellen Führung des ESF, der dominierenden Kräfte aus linken Gewerkschaften, von attac, auf Vereinigungen, die der europäischen Linkspartei nahe stehen usw. das einfach nicht wollen.

http://www.linkezeitung.de/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8996&Itemid=1

Why Low Turnout at ESF March?

Bianet has asked international and Turkish activists why so few people joined the march of the European Social Forum on Saturday.
Istanbul – BİA News Center
05 July 2010, Monday

On Saturday, 3 July, around 3,000 people joined the march of the European Social Forum (ESF) in Istanbul.

http://bianet.org/english/world/123174-why-low-turnout-at-esf-march

European Social failure?

The sixth European Social Forum took place in Istanbul at the beginning of July. Sophie Haydock and James Robertson found it left something to be desired

What location could be better for this year’s European Social Forum (ESF) than historic Istanbul – where, in tourist-brochure lingo, ‘East meets West in spectacular style’. What a fantastic opportunity to explore Turkey’s domestic issues: the Kurds, relations with Greece and the Turkish military presence in Cyprus – and perhaps, most crucially, how the people of Europe should respond to the financial crisis and get the P.I.G.S out of the IMF/EU pen?

The opening ceremony on the Wednesday 30 June certainly showed that some of this initial optimism was not unfounded, featuring a large Kurdish delegation performing a traditional dance. Under normal conditions, that action would have resulted in the swift and heavy-handed arrest of those involved. What’s more, the 2010 European Social Forum took place just five weeks after Israeli soldiers shot dead nine Turkish activists on board the flotilla bound for Gaza. Surely Istanbul would be the place to unite those wishiing to work together to end the siege of Gaza and challenge Israel’s impunity?

http://www.redpepper.org.uk/European-Social-failure

ESF Istanbul 2010
Another Social Forum was possible

www.socialistworld.net, 07/07/2010
website of the committee for a workers’ international, CWI

Support for European-wide protest on 29 September

CWI reporters

With Europe in crisis, and Turkish undergoing deep changes, the European Social forum was merely business as usual, with a declining number of participants. The summary of the forum merely made reference to the European-wide day of action on 29 September, rather than discussing and developing a strategy for the movement.

http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/4389

VI. Európai Szociális Fórum – Isztambul 2010. július 1.-4.
A harc folytatódik
Minden szervezési probléma ellenére az isztambuli fórumot sikerült megrendezni, amelyet pozitívumként kell értékelni, mert kb. 3-4 hónappal ezelőtt úgy látszott, hogy a fórum elmarad. A rendkívül szűkös anyagi háttér és humán erőforrás ellenére a VI. ESZF lehetővé tette az európai baloldal képviselőinek, civil csoportjainak az ismételt személyes találkozókat, a véleménycserét. Találkozhattunk a török szociális mozgalmak különböző áramlatainak aktivistáival, megismerhettük a Törökországot alapvetően foglalkoztató kérdéseket: a kurdok szabadságtörekvéseit, a gázai flotilla szomorú ügyét, a török szakszervezetek követeléseit.
Beszámoló az isztambuli ESZF-ről

http://attac.zpok.hu/cikk.php3?id_article=1191

Some more pictures from  ESF in Istanbul

http://www.flickr.com/search/?s=int&w=all&q=Istanbul+ESF&m=text

http://www.flickr.com/photos/onesolutionrevolution/sets/72157624451945052/

Right wing extremism in Romania

Tord Björk | ESF,political culture,Repression,right wing | Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Presented at the Prague spring conference 2010: Alternatives to right wing extremism in a time of social and ecological crisis

BEYOND THE TRUTH – AN ANALYSIS OF RIGHT WING EXTREMISM IN ROMANIA

1. AN INTRODUCTION

In a time of trouble when xenophobia and racism are soaring in many European countries, Romania seems to remain an oasis out of the revival of the Far Right. Such typical traits of Right Wing Extremism are presently to be found and documented neither as social phenomena nor as organized movements.

On the contrary, Romania has lately opened its borders to immigrants from African countries to the Middle East and even to countries from the Far East as China and Vietnam, and there are dozens of documented cases that prove the kind, open and hospitable manner these people have been treated and helped integrate into the society. Prior to the EU accession, legislation has also been adjusted to the new reality and to comply with the European standards.

The tradition of welcoming people from afar and not showing xenophobic and racist attitudes towards them dates back long before 1989: members of the Greek ‘Eteria’ (that reads ‘Brotherhood’) liberation movement found refuge and support in Romania in the 1820s, Armenians, Jews, Italians, Greeks, Albanians and others came in waves as migrants mostly in the interwar period establishing flourishing businesses in trade, banking and sweets manufacturing, Polish refugees were offered aid and temporary home from 1939 to 1940 when fleeing from the Nazis and their national thesaurus was safeguarded until it was shipped to the US, to end up with the many thousands of Arab, African and South American students throughout the 1970s and 1980s who, after graduating, chose to remain, married with Romanian women and settled down in Romania.

Nevertheless, Romania is a case of a different kind in terms of what is being labeled as ‘Right Wing Extremism’: unlike in most European countries, the vectors of the Far Right are neither xenophobia, nor Islam phobia, nor racism, nor fascism, nor neo-Nazism, but extreme nationalism, ethnocentrism, traditionalism, conservatism, patriarchalism, and a broad intolerance toward gay phenomena.

2. AN EXPLANATION

The explanation of the aforementioned is, at least, threefold.

Firstly, historically and psycho-socially speaking, the innate structure of the Romanian people proved to be hardly tractable along the lines of xenophobia, fascism and racism.

Secondly, historically speaking, the genuine Romanian Right Wing Extremism has naturally died out.
The members of the notorious ‘Legion of Michael Archangel’ originally founded in the 1910s, and later renamed ‘The Iron Guard’, could not fully pass on their legacy to a new organization. It was the legacy of a paramilitary structure which had its heydays during the 1930s and 1940s and did contain elements of violent xenophobia, racism against the Roma and anti-Semitism. Their doctrine relied heavily on exacerbated nationalist feelings and Orthodox religion. It is notorious that combining extreme nationalism and ethnocentrism with Orthodox religion is a method of manipulating people in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, people who proved to be tractable along this course since times immemorial – the Civil War in Yugoslavia is probably the bloodiest and the nearest example in time in this respect.
The ‘Iron Guard’ spread terror throughout the country and carried out pogroms and individual executions of respected scholars, politicians, and even of prominent members of the Government.

“They murdered an entire series of former ministers (60 ministers and high officials were murdered at Jilava, in November 1940)” [Djuvara, Neagu, page 248].

The ‘Iron Guard’ had rather good connections with Hitler and even managed to rule the country for a brief, chaotic and bloody period of time between the close of 1940 and early 1941. After a two-day civil war waged between the Army and the ‘Iron Guard’ in the end of January 1941 the latter were defeated and its top leaders found refuge in Germany thereafter.
So feared and undesirable was the ‘Iron Guard’ that Hitler would occasionally resort to recall their potential menace in order to blackmail the Romanian Government and force them taking certain decisions.
The ‘Iron Guard’ was eventually dismantled and outlawed by the newly installed Communist regime in 1945-1946. Its members were declared enemies of the people, of the State and of the new social order and were hunted down ending either killed or in extermination prisons. The forty-five years of Communist dictatorship, as well as the generation gap that has gaped in time between them and any potential followers, took their toll and made their ideological legacy fade away.

Thirdly, and most importantly, both historically and psycho-socially speaking, Romanians are tractable along other vectors of the Far Right than xenophobia, fascism and racism, namely extreme nationalism and ethnocentrism.

3. THE FAR RIGHT EPIGONES

Albeit after 1989 until the late 1990s the last elderly surviving members of the ‘Iron Guard’ who escaped from the Communist Gulag tried to make a comeback and recruit new members whilst the new political regime was showing tolerance and permissiveness towards them, the Legion has never recovered. Petty bickering and long-repressed disagreements on the would-be political doctrine split the movement into several political groups, each claiming to be the one and only holders of the true legacy of the Legion. Obviously, such groups of very old men were mere shadows of the past and their Right Wing extremism would be expressed only in discourses attended by few believers and some curious people.

Even if some of the members of the Legion, particularly poets and priests, have been somewhat rehabilitated, their works published, their tombs turned into shrines, and their sufferance and endurance in the Communist extermination camps have been turned into heroism mostly to comply with the political needs of the new political System-Machinery, the public appeal of the ‘Iron Guard’ doctrine has come to naught.

The attempts to found a New Legion in the image of the former glorious one with young people fell short because of the lack of the unity of the surviving patriarchs, of the generation gap and broken continuity, of the new political and legislative conditions, and because of lack of financing.

The only epigone organization that maintains partly the legacy of the ‘Iron Guard’ is the ‘Association the New Right’. Strangely enough, they have been legally registered as an NGO and thus they must walk on a thin line that separates the realm of Law from the realm of offense and crime. Consequently, the organization is not officially labeled as of ‘Extreme Right’. Nevertheless, they do have the features of Right Wing extremism at least in terms of ethnocentrism, extreme nationalism and intolerance towards sexual minorities. They would rise to the occasion and organize counter-manifestations against Hungarian ethnic minority and against homosexuals and lesbians, but they try to keep their actions non-violent and merely at the level of aggressive political discourse. They are battling against the claims of the Hungarian ethnic minority particularly from the districts of Harghita, Covasna and Mures in Transylvania, and, particularly, against the Hungarian ‘HVIM’, a Right Wing extremist organization that has established a branch in Transylvania and militates for border changes and re-annexation of the territories Great Hungary possessed before the Trianon Treaty.
The ‘Association the New Right’ is led by some young intellectuals and students. It is striving hard to gain an image and legitimacy both inside the country and across the borders. The organization’s financing sources remain a subject of speculation.

4. ABOUT NATIONALISM AS PILLAR OF THE FAR RIGHT

Nationalism, according to Albert Einstein, is a childhood disease of the human society, like measles is in case of the individual. In other words, the more exacerbated and virulent the nationalism, the less developed the society, and vice-versa.

“Albert Camus […] correctly noted that nationalism is a pathologic form of national identity.”  [Keane, John, p.118].

Since this is a critical work, we will not insist on the merits and benefic aspects of nationalism, elements which should have already ended their historic role in the consolidation of the nation and of the state throughout Europe.

In Romania, similarly to other European countries, the first notable turn of the nationalism that played a constructive role in the formation of the Romanian nation state during the first two decades of the 20th century into extreme, aggressive and violent nationalism appeared in the early 1930s and continued up to the end of the Second World War. Not by chance, it was a period of global crisis that ended in a world scale war.

There are four elements that may be regarded as being amongst the most negative features of nationalism.
Firstly, nationalism creates Myths and fosters Mythical Thinking in the terms of Ernst Cassirer. We believe the time of myths has gone and the 21st century should not be a time of the creating Myths and of Mythical Thinking.
Secondly, nationalism helps spreading neoliberalism and populism with the creation of so-called providential Father Figures and grand Saviors of the Nation. Thus, it helps the maintaining of the self-entitled ‘Elites’ in Power.
Thirdly, nationalism seems to have a natural tendency of combining with religion, which, more often than not, has led to social, cultural and economic catastrophe.
Fourthly, nationalism is being used to manipulate and divert the attention of the public opinion from real issues in the state during times of political and economic crisis.
In real life, these four features of nationalism appear blended and have always been harnessed by those in Power to extend, deepen and prolong their domination over the masses.

Nationalism and its extreme forms are, along with Religion and its extreme forms, ways of venting out Weakness and Fear, Failure and Frustration by means of inventing a non-existent reality that satisfies the expectations of the ego of the individual and of the group. Both Nationalism and Religion heavily rely on Myth production and Mythical Thinking that involve taboos, rituals, and worshipping God-like founding heroes and past embellished events. The pattern has been similar all over the world since ancient times.

“For Armstrong, the group identity named ‘nation’ is simply a modern equivalent of the pre-modern ethnic identity which existed throughout the entire recorded history. […] Following Barth’s analysis concerning the social organization and group boundaries, Armstrong sees the set of perceptions called by us ‘ethnicity’ forming and dissolving in each period of history. Some of these, supported by various myths and symbols resisted for centuries and constituted the foundation for the emergence of the ‘national’ identities later on. […].” [Smith, Anthony D., p.174-175

5. THE NATIONALIST STRUCTURES AFTER 1989 AND THEIR LINKS WITH THE PAST

In a strange and ironic twist of fate, the Far Right legacy in the form of extreme nationalism and ethnocentrism contributed, along with other factors, to the establishment of dictatorial Communist regime in Romania and, thus, to social dissolution, cultural decay, and oppression of the people.
A relevant argument in favour of this thesis lies in the fact that many prominent historians refer to certain stages of Communism by using the term ‘National Communism’.

An even stronger argument lies in the emergence after 1989 of a number of political structures and personages which promote extreme nationalism, chauvinism, ethnocentrism, intolerance and hatred directed against ethnic minorities, parties and individuals which emerged directly from the former dictatorial Romanian Communist Party (PCR), from amongst the circle of court poets, as well as from the former the top State apparatus.

“Ever since the ‘velvet revolutions’ of 1989-1991, the nationalist card has been played not only by the communist parties and by the organizations struggling to maintain their power – Milosevic in Serbia, Kravciuk in Ukraine, and Iliescu in Romania are but a few examples.” [Keane, John, p.124].

5.1. THE TRADITIONAL NATIONALIST STRUCTURES

The Party of the National Unity of Romanians (PUNR) was founded in mid-March 1990 on the basis of a so-called civil organization called ‘Vatra Romaneasca’, that reads ‘The Romanian Hearth’, which, at its turn, had been initiated by an obscure Orthodox priest. Once again, the link between nationalism and Orthodox religion inevitably leads, like a déjà vu, to the model of the ‘Iron Guard’.

An objective analysis of the bloody inter-ethic conflicts of 15th of March 1990 that caused many casualties on both sides as well as a serious damage to the international image of the new-born Romanian State could not dismiss the role these extreme nationalist organizations played in its ignition and fueling.

Official historical versions insist in explaining its emergence as a genuine popular response to the allegedly rising danger of the Hungarian ethnic minority backed up by the Hungarian State claiming rights and liberties that would, allegedly, jeopardize the national unity of the State by the separation of Transylvania from the motherland. Some of them even went that far to declare that the events in Transylvania had been an experimental embryo for the operation of dismantling former Yugoslavia the following years, experiment carried out by the powerful Western States that did not want Nation States in the region.

The PUNR used to promote a nationalist discourse mainly directed against the Hungarian ethnic minority living in Transylvania.

“The jingoistic discourses are meant in the best case for ‘internal usage’, if one may still be hoping that they can cover the deplorable state of the Romanian society. But they do not help at all abroad. On the contrary, this is precisely the kind of discourse which discredits.” [Boia, Lucian, p.388].

The PUNR has become lately a mere shadow of what it used to be in the turmoil of the early 90s, undergoing some obscure period of transformation. Some of its top leaders left the party for the Great Romania Party and, eventually, it seems it was, in the early 2006, silently absorbed into the Conservative Party whose discourse became imbued with stronger nationalistic tones.

The Great Romania Party (PRM) is a notorious Right-Wing party that used to promote in the past an ethnocentric, anti-Hungarian ethnic minority, anti-Roma ethnic minority and anti-Semite political discourse. Their European political family is composed of the French Le Penn, the Austrian Haider, and the like. Presently their discourse shifted to milder tones but nevertheless, elements of ethnocentrism, extreme nationalism combined with populism remained obvious.

“The Grand Romania Party is a nostalgic party […]”. [Gusa, Cozmin, p.32].

It is relevant to remark that the founder and the president of the Great Romania Party was one of Dictator Ceausescu’s court poets and shared all the privileges of the Nomenklatura, though he presently denies it. This confirms again the inseparable connection between the present-day nationalist structures and the former dictatorial structures.

Both the aforementioned parties are infested with retired Securitate and Army high-ranking officers, with Ceausescu’s former henchmen, and with priests, in the attempt to psychoanalytically exploit primeval drives of the individual and of the group.

At the last Euro parliamentary elections of 2008 the president of the Great Romania Party (PRM) managed to get a seat in the EU Parliament showing that the nationalist and tough redeeming political discourse is rather appealing and dear to the Romanians. Beyond that, such a high score indicated the need of Romanians for healing, for Justice, Truth, and a Better Life, ultimately, the quest for an alternative.

Article on the left wing nationalist attack on Romanian Social Forum

5.2. A CASE STUDY: THE RIGHT WING EXTREMISM OF THE RADICAL LEFT

The Socialist Party of Workers (PSM), later on turned into the Socialist Alliance Party (PAS), is a case of a different kind and requires an attentive analysis since it is the only party in Romania that declares itself as Radical Left.

The party was initially structured on the traditionalist hard-liners of the former dictatorial regime and some top former apparatchiks in the 2nd and 3rd echelons of the PCR. The passage of time has proved that their only supporters remained the nostalgic, the frustrated who could not adapt themselves to the new dynamics in politics and lost their positions as strongmen, few of the workers and peasants, some of the poor, some of the older generation, and, unfortunately, lately, some opportunists and upstarts.
They managed to get access into the Parliament only in the very first period of the 90s, gradually fading away since then. The PAS tried hardly to catch the new and democratic European Left Wing political style and pace by joining the European Left Party (ELP) in 2004 in Rome, but they could not reach the political honesty of publicly denying Stalinism and Ceausism.

The PAS leadership still publicly claims that Ceausescu’s dictatorship had in fact been a ‘Nationalist Communism’ and an ‘Illuminated Communism’ for the benefit of the Romanian people. One of the satellite NGOs of the PAS, the Association ‘Genius of the Carpathians’, bears one of the worshiping addressing names imposed to Romanians by Dictator Ceausescu.
Many a time, PAS revealed that it relies on and it employs extreme nationalism as a manipulating political tool, the same way as the Ceausescu had been doing. Populist demagogic Right Wing phrases embellishing the past such as ‘the grand Romanian people’, ‘our grand nation’, ‘our grand past’ and ‘our grand heroes’ are permanent ingredients of their so-called ‘Left’ political discourse.

Presently the importance and influence of the PAS in Romanian political life has become practically insignificant, and their political chances are close to naught, most likely because of the presence in the party of nostalgic followers of Ceausism and Stalinism.
The proof lies in the disastrous scores the PAS obtained in the 2004 and 2008 elections when they hardly managed to get 1% of the votes in certain ‘red’ areas of the country like the Southern Counties. Rotaru Constantin, president of PAS, scored rather poorly when running for the Presidential elections of 2009 only to finish before the last. Such performance and scores dismiss their political approach and signal the historical need for the emergence of a completely different Left Party in Romania.

In spite of all the political failure, the president of PAS, Rotaru Constantin, is a well-to-do businessman who holds the monopoly of flag manufacturing in the country and has founded a Media trust. His company ‘Rotarexim’ has a publicly declared an annual turnover that exceeds 1,000,000 Euros. In such circumstances, the Media is not far from the truth when writing that his businesses may well keep the flag up but Capitalism does not match with Left ideology.

On 26th January 2008, the Association for the Development of the Romanian Social Forum (AD FSR) and the Romanian Ecological Action Foundation (AER Foundation) were the only to legally organize a social-environmental and cultural event in Romania in the frame of the series of events of the Global Day of Action launched by the World Social Forum.
Rotaru Constantin, president of PAS attacked the event, the participants, and the organizers in a libeler newspaper article that had all the characteristics of Right Wing Extremism: extreme nationalism and ethnocentrism, ethnic discrimination and chauvinism, intolerance and hatred discourse against the Hungarian ethnic minority, political harassment, populism and inciting authorities to take action against innocent people.

Consequently, the president of the Romanian Socialist Alliance Party (PAS) was sued for the offence of publicly promoting Right Wing Extremism in the form of multiple discrimination, political harassment, and hatred discourse.

In his sole written defence, Rotaru Constantin insisted that ‘that was a political position’ and ‘he did not express himself a private person but as political leader’. It is beyond any doubt that such statement made a very bad impression on the Judges because it implied that a political leader may have immunity to do whatever he wants against people. Moreover, the statement confirms once again that the Left Radical Socialist Alliance Party admits that they promote Right Wing Extremism in the form of extreme nationalism, ethnic discrimination, and hatred discourse.

During the trial, the High Court admitted as proof a document that consisted of a newspaper article according to which the Socialist Alliance Party (PAS) has close connections with the Great Romania Party (PRM) with which they were to establish an electoral alliance in the autumn of 2008. It appears that one of the common denominators of the two parties is extreme nationalism and ethnic discrimination targeting mainly the Hungarian ethnic minority in Romania.

After more than a two-year long legal battle, the Highest Court of Justice in Romania (ICCJ) ruled in early February 2010 that the sentence of the High Court of Appeal of Alba County in the case no. 292/57/2009 was right and legal.

Therefore, Rotaru Constantin, president of PAS, was sentenced for promoting  multiple discrimination and political harassment as offender of Law no. 137/2000 corroborated with Recommendation no. R (97) 20 issued by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe regarding the hatred discourse, as well as with the judiciary practice of the European Court of Justice. The president of PAS was also sentenced to pay a contravention fine. The judgment of the Highest of Court of Justice in Romania is final and irrevocable (see: http://www.scj.ro/dosare.asp?view=detalii&id=100000000209313 ).

This judgment puts the European Left Party in an unprecedented embarrassing position since one of their founding party members has been sentenced for publicly promoting Right Wing Extremist policies directed against innocent citizens and social actors engaged in the WSF and ESF processes.

24th-26th of March 2010
Aiud, Romania

Petre Damo

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Crisis, nationalism and revolutionary possibilities: The case of Eastern Europe

Tord Björk | ESF,global crisis,political culture,popular movements,right wing | Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Crisis, nationalism and revolutionary possibilities: The case of Eastern Europe

This paper by Andrejs Berdņikovs and Steffen Böhm was presented at the Prague spring conference. It was also presented at Alternative Futures and Popular Protest conference, Manchester Metropolitan University, 29-31 March 2010.

It includes such critical remarks as:

“We see obvious signs of the rise of ultra-right wing and fascist movements all
around Eastern Europe as well as parts of Western Europe, and what we hope to show is
that fascism is a ‘logical’ successor of neo-liberalism, the way it has been practised as
‘transition’ in Eastern Europe.”

and

“This is precisely the weakness of the theoretical oeuvre of Ernesto Laclauv as well.
Writing in the post-Marxist tradition, his theory of hegemony and populism seems to be
based on the explicit or implicit ethico-normative belief that socialist revolution is part of
culture, history and political goal of social movement organising. What is less theorised
in his abstract theoretical framework is the possibility of social movement organising
leading to anti-emancipatory, right-wing and even fascist forms of ideology that,
nevertheless all legitimate capitalism, yet in different ways.

Let us therefore outline a theoretical framework that distinguishes between three politico-
ideological regimes of capitalism, which can exist side by side. It is our argument that
what we are currently seeing in many parts of Eastern Europe is not necessarily the
starting point of a socialist revolution but, on the contrary, the restructuring of capitalism
and the movement from one capitalist politico-ideological regime to another one.”
Author: andrejs.berdnikovs (at) fulbrightmail.org

Appeal for Anastasia Denisova.

Tord Björk | ESF,Propaganda,Repression,right wing | Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Governor of Krasnodar krai
Tkachov Alexandr Nikolaevich
Krasnodar, Krasnaya, 35.
Tel/fax: +7 (861) 262-57-16,
fax: +7 (861) 268-35-42

with Copy to:

Plenipotentiary of President of the
Russian Federation to South Federal District
Ustinov Vladimir Vasilyevich
Rostov-on-Don, Bolshaya Sadovaya, 73
tel. +7 (863) 249-99-43, fax +7 (863) 249-99-47

APPEAL

We are extremely concerned about the situation with human rights activists in Krasnodar krai and, namely, the criminal charges filed against Anastasia Denisova.
Anastasia Denisova is our colleague, a 27-year-old human rights defender and an expert in counteraction against xenophobia, racism and intolerance. Anastasia is the president of Krasnodar krai non-governmental organization Youth Group for Tolerance “ETHnICS”, a member of the Coordinating Council of the International Youth Human Rights Movement, an employee of Human Rights Centre “Memorial”, Analytical center SOVA and co-coordinator of the ”Green Alternative” group in the region of Krasnodar.
We know that Anastasia has done a lot in the sphere of non-violent antifascism, both practically and theoretically. For several years Anastasia Denisova and NGO “ETHnICS” have been subdued to harassment and inhibition of professional activities (presence of outsiders during the Federal Registration Service check-up; groundless claim of damages from Tax Inspectorate, as a result of which the activities of the NGO were brought to a halt; regular delays and examination at crossing the border of the Russian Federation; prevention of her departure to the OSCE meeting in Warsaw, etc.). This high-pressure situation culminated in late 2009 when the criminal charges were brought against Anastasia Denisova. At the same time the criminal case is centered around examination of computer equipment which does not belong either to Anastasia Denisova or NGO “ETHnICS” and as far as we are informed which was confiscated with the violations of the Russian Federation legislation. The criminal case is based on the expert advice the validity of which is highly doubtful.
Systematic prevention of Denisova’s activities allows us to suggest that this criminal case is again a form of pressure on behalf of the authorities of the region. We are amazed that monitoring manifestation of xenophobia, and discrimination of ethnic minorities, cultural and educational projects that Anastasia does – are not welcomed and supported by the authorities of Krasnodar krai. We express out deep concern about the rise of right-wing extremism in Europe and in Russia and call for respect for people who decide to act against it.
At the same time mass media is covering other incidents of harassment of human rights and civil activists in Krasnodar krai. These cases instigate a very unpleasant atmosphere around Krasnodar krai, which seriously influences the image of the Russian Federation, especially on the eve of Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014.

In this respect we call upon for:

1.    personal control of lawfulness of the court trial against Anastasia Denisova
2.    assistance to ensure secure functioning of civil society institutions in Krasnodar krai.

Date
Name of organization / Name
Signature

Right-wing and extreme right-wing groups in France

Tord Björk | ESF,political culture,right wing,Uncategorized | Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Luis Weber and Ewa Ziolkowski at the Prague spring conference

Right-wing and extreme right-wing groups in France

About the latest regional elections in France

by Luis Weber

Regional elections took place in France on March 14th and 21st, 2010. With regard to the subject of our conference, two remarks should be emphasized, in my view :

−    the huge rate of abstention, over 50%, very high in the French context and which expresses, among other reasons, the lack of interest in the big «traditional» parties.
−    the score obtained by the National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen, about 11,5 %, to which we should add the results of the other extreme right-wing lists, generally born of splits of the NF itself (about 1 %). Certainly, these results are lower than those the National Front and the other extreme-right candidates got at the beginning of this century: more than 19 % for example in the presidential election of 2002. And about 15 % in the regional elections of 2004, if we want to compare with a ballot of the same nature. But, meanwhile, Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP had made a lot “to siphon” the electorate of the NF – I will return to this matter – with certain results: in the presidential elections of 2007, Le Pen lost more than a million votes and fell again back to 10,5 %. The fall seemed to accelerate when the lists of the NF obtained only 6,3 % in the European elections of 2009, passing from 7 members of the European Parliament in 2004 to 3 in 2009. What led the medias to emphasize two facts after the regional of this year: the victory of the Left and the “bounce” of the NF.

From there, I suggest making at first some reminders on what represent regions in the French institutional context and to say how far it can influence the elections at this level. Then, in brief too, I will propose some thoughts about the place of the extreme right in the French political context. Finally, I will propose some considerations on the possible reasons of the “surge” which I have just evoked.

Regions are a recent creation in the French institutional architecture. Historically, France has been a very centralized country. Since Napoleon, the State was dominating, being the only level holding the legislative power, the only one collecting taxes and consequently having resources. Municipalities, which are very numerous, and especially departments (around one hundred) had thus hardly any consistent autonomy. Regions (they are 22 in continental France, to have an element of comparison with departments) were at first purely administrative groupings. It was only in 1972 that they were endowed with elected assemblies. Their competences have been will been actually widened up from the so-called decentralization laws, the first of them having been adopted in 1982, a short time after the election of the first left president of the Fifth Republic, François Mitterrand.

Since then, there has been more and more devolution of competences to the regions:

– In the economic field, through the elaboration of regional plans of economic development,
– For transportation, with a regional plan of infrastructures and of transports,
– For education, culture and, especially, vocational training

These competences are consistent, they allowed the left in the electoral debate to campaign on the theme: “voting for the Left is giving regions the means to become a social shield “, that means for the people, by opposition to the decision of the government, after the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, to establish a ” fiscal shield ” for the rich, limiting their fiscal contribution. But, according to an argument moved by the Right to justify the very high level of abstention in these regional elections, regions would be still too recent to interest the population, who hardly knows about their very role and doesn’t even know the name of their presidents, as diverse polls have shown. This explanation is obviously a little bit short-sighted. It seems to ignore that abstention increases in all the elections, with the exception of the presidential one. And especially that it is particularly important in what we call in France the “sensitive areas” (that means where most people are poor, at least socially disadvantaged) within the  big cities and their suburbs. And that this abstention also expresses the depreciation which strikes today politics in general and the “traditional” political parties more specifically.

The place of the extreme Right

One should not make a mistake, this place has existed for a long time. Since the end of the 19th century, there have been in France populist politicians whose influence sometimes threatened the very republican institution, at that time still fragile. They were supported by all those who had not really agreed, a century later, to have been the losers of the French Revolution or those who, later, were going to be, from another point of view, the losers of the Industrial revolution, mainly the tradespeople and the artisans in the cities.

In the 1930s, influential groups in France looked with sympathy at what took place in Germany and in Italy with the rise of fascism. During the 1929 crisis, of which middle classes became the main victims, the believers in an authoritarian regime, a “national” extreme-right groups rather than “fascists” one, in the Italian or German way, leaned on the widespread antiparliamentary feelings, fed by some financial scandals and the ceaseless changes of government, to organize real riots in February, 1934. The parliamentary Left, then in power, denounces it as an attempt of fascist coup d’etat. The result was however going to take away the danger for a while: labor unions, which had divided in 1921, reunified ; the Popular Front Left won the 1936 elections. But the war and the invasion of the country were going to allow the extreme-right leagues to take their revenge in 1940, with the end of the Third Republic and the coming into power of marshal Pétain. I do not insist here on what in France we call the collaboration, which was going to allow the extreme-right not only to serve as auxiliaries to the Nazis but, as it is revealed more and more today, to play an active role in the deportation of the Jews and the gypsies, as well as of the political opponents, the communists, the socialists but also many right-wing people refusing  fascism.

One can understand that, under these conditions, the extreme-right seemed to disappear, with the exception of some very tiny groups, during the decades which followed the Second World war. For example, when Le Pen decided to stand for the 1974 presidential election, as a representative of the then very young NF, he got 0,75 % of the votes cast (to compare with the about 15% he obtained in 1988 !). But the recollection of the dark years of the occupation and the treason of the “national Right” does not explain the whole situation. We can add some other factors:
– The strong economic growth until the middle of the 1970s, which led to speak of the Thirty glorious (years) to indicate these three decades. The considerable increase of the average standard of living, alomost no unemployment, deprived the extreme-right of one of its favourite arguments: to denounce ” the system “, ” the profiteers “, “the politicians”, ” the parliamentarism”, etc.

– The strongly nationalist character of the Gaullism, which satisfied the ” national right “, not so much inclined under  these conditions to adopt extreme-right views.

On the other hand, the decolonization (around the early 1960s) meant for France  the loss of its colonial empire and, consequently, of its influence in the world. It allowed the extreme-right to lean on a feeling of frustration and the demonization of those, the  Arabs in particular, who became some years later most of the migrants. If the decolonization process was almost peaceful in Africa, it was very violent in Indochina (today Vietnam) and, especially, in Algeria. Whole generations of soldiers were sent into this ” dirty war ” which, furthermore, did not want to say its name. Officially, the matter was only to “pacify” Algeria !

All this was going to give to Jean-Marie Le Pen (who went himself as a volunteer to Indochina and to Algeria, where he has been accused of having practised torture) and to the National Front the main ingredients for their political emergence.

The National Front defines itself at the same time as being a part of the “national Right” (which may explain its trend towards xenophobia and even racism, with the motive that the French identity would be threatened), as being populist (The NF criticizes elites and advocates appeal to the people, which must obviously be embodied in a charismatic face, the leader) and sovereignist (the NF thus refuses any transfer of sovereignty, it is against Europe and fustigates globalization). We shall note however, it is a tradition in the French radical right, that it does not consider itself as an extreme right-wing party!

The deterioration of the economic situation from the 1970s, the rise of  unemployment and then poverty, was going to feed the populist discourse of the NF. According to its leaders, it defends the poor people, accuses the rich and the political and economic elites, without moving back from the resumption of the old anti-semite slogans, taking so up another solidly anchored tradition of the ” national right “. This populist discourse does not hesitate to denounce – just in semblance, the economic and social programme of the NF being indeed properly reactionary – the consequences of the liberalism, which will deeply affect people from the early 1980s. It meets all the more success as the relinquishment from 1983 of the policy of “breaking off with capitalism” promised by the Left and François Mitterrand upon their arrival into  power in 1981 allows the NF to appear as the only “anti-system” party, the communists being from these years identified with the Union of the Left which discredited lastingly itself among popular classes by this “turning point to rigor “.

One should add to this the fact that from the same time, most immigrants settled down durably in France, in particular through the possibility of “family regroupment”, supposed to be the counterpart of the end of immigration announced in 1974. For the NF, the immigrants become the cause of all the troubles. “They take the work of the French people “, when ” they do not eat their bread “. They “Islamize” France. In that time, immigrants came indeed mostly from North Africa and, gradually, from sub-Saharan Africa. This rhetoric finds thus considerable echo in regions, particularly in Southern France, where those we call in France the “Repatriated” from Algeria, having left this country when it became independent in 1962, have started a new life.

This rather complex reality of the National Front in the French political scene from its first big electoral successes (it started in 1983, on the occasion of a municipal but highly mediatized election in Dreux near Paris, then at the European elections of 1984 the NF got about 11 % of the votes, after a quite small 0,75 % in the general election three years previously!) may explain the main features of the NF’s implantation today:

– In regions formerly industrialized as Lorraine or the North of France, where the crises of the mining and of the steel industry dislocated totally the economic structure and, consequently, the social structure. They are also regions where these industries, operating with lowly qualified workers, attracted many immigrants, in particular of North Africa after the Second World war (before, they came rather from Poland, from Central Europe or from Italy). They are established today since two, even three generations and are French. It does not prevent the NF from stating that they remain immigrants and Muslims, what allows it to play upon the fears already mentioned.

– In the South of the country, in particular along the Mediterranean Coast, the strong presence of the “repatriated people” from North Africa allows the NF to exceed there also 20 % of the votes in the last regional elections. In this region, the NF was even able in the past to govern relatively important cities.

Certainly, this very simple scheme (with a Southeast / Northwest bow where the NF  exceeds everywhere 10 % of the votes and sometimes 20% as in Marseille in the South and in the region of Lille in the North; a sharply lower presence in the rest of the country) does not exhaust the reality. The National Front is sometimes very strong in cities of Côte d’Azur the population of which is rather wealthy. Also, it happens that whole villages of the rather rich region of Alsace vote mainly for the National Front. But, globally, this image is however rather close to the reality.

The dangerous game of the Right

Historically, the border between the right and the National Front has always been rather permeable. When the National Front obtained more than thirty members of Parliament in the National Assembly in 1986, most of them were formerly lected as candidates of ordinary ight-wing parties.

With Nicolas Sarkozy, the ambition became quite different: he would have wanted to attract the voters of the National Front not so much through  policies  capable of ending the disparities which are preying on the country and which add fresh fuel to the NF vote, but by taking back some of the themes which made the success of the NF:

– a bit of populism (” I listen to you, contrary to the other politicians who do not”),

– a big emphasis put on the matter of security (Sarkozy was Minister for Home Affairs before becoming President of the Republic and election campaigns have been for years opportunities to display police forces and to focus on well chosen criminal affairs such as assaults on elder people, etc.)

– and a relatively new form: the theme of national identity.

Some words on this matter. From the formation of the first government under Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, an important institutional innovation was introduced with the creation of a Ministry of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Jointly liable development. This last element – Jointly liable development – was lately added, in order to calm down the outcry of indignation against the three first ones and their amalgamation. From a symbolic point of view, the association of national identity and immigration made indeed a strong gesture, making clearly of the immigration a problem for the national identity. We were thus very close to the usual rhetoric of the NF on this matter. This ambiguity was going to be stressed by the initiative of a ” debate on the national identity ” taken in November, 2009 by the Minister concerned, one of the former leaders of the Socialist Party Éric Besson. To tell the truth, he just endorsed a promise made by Nicolas Sarkosy during the presidential election campaign. But the dates finally chosen are blurting out the real objective pursued: the debate had to end with a national colloquium two weeks before… the regional elections of March, 2010. In fact, the debate started very badly. As many observers forecasted it, it quickly  turned into a debate on immigration and not around national identity. Which opened a boulevard for the most extreme opinions, so much that the government was forced to bury rapidly the debate itself in oblivion. The real winner was thus the NF, the favourite themes of which came back onto the front of the stage, this time even without any initiative of its own. But, as it was said on other occasions in France, ” the voters prefer generally the original to the copy “. This episode thus very probably restored some legitimacy and voters to the NF and to its ideas, without any benefit for the President’s UMP.

By way of (a brief) conclusion

The crisis and its consequences on the population, in particular on the most fragile groups, maintains the fear of the future and the loss of confidence in the capacity of the political elites to bring up long-lasting solutions. This provides credibility to the populist themes developed by the extreme-right, including xenophobia and racism. In a country like France, this “refusal of the other one” has privileged targets, in connection with the history of the country in the 20th century. For years, these targets have mainly been the “Arabs”, and more generally the Muslims (islamophobia), including their children having been French for one or two generations. But the changes of geopolitical nature and the new flows of immigration which result from it (Eastern European countries, Turkey, the Middle East and Asia – Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, etc.) create new tensions. It is an issue the Left and the anti-globalization activists cannot ignore today.

The Alternative to the Right-Wing Extremism in the Time of Social and Ecological Crisis

Tord Björk | CEE,ESF,International action | Friday, April 9th, 2010

Klimaforum declaration presented at the ESF mobilization conference in Prague

Russian below = Po-russki vnizun and in Czech

Conference „The Alternative
to the Right-Wing Extremism in the Time of Social and Ecological Crisis“
Prague, 27th and 28th March 2010
Final Declaration

Approximately 100 participants from 19 Eastern, Central and Western-European countries representing a great variety of social movements, human rights and ecological organizations and trade unions got together in Prague on March 27th and 28th, 2010 to take a part in a conference on alternatives to right-wing extremism in a time of social and ecological crisis, held in the framework of the European Social Forum.

Analyzing the rise of right-wing extremism in different European countries in the global context of social and ecological crisis we considered it to be a very serious danger to civil and social rights and for the future of our countries. In numerous discussions we discovered a great diversity of reasons for this threat to the democracies in the Eastern, Central and Western European countries, a threat which is deeply rooted in the history of fascism and the growing social inequalities and unemployment in the present.

We detected a whole spectrum of extreme-right organizations going form autonomous, militant and militaristic neo-fascists like in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia and Germany to right-wing tendencies embedded in nationalist parties like in Austria, Hungary, France and Czechia. In Romania and Ukraine extreme right-wing policies are promoted not only by the well-established and known right political parties but also by those pretending to be from radical left. There is also a new tendency of youth mobilizations drawing from globalization critical and antifascist movements their ways of dressing in black and disguising themselves as autonomists whereas on the other side, in Turkey right-wing extremism is integrated in the State apparatus where a right-wing religious party promotes the neo-liberal restructuring of the State and taking advantage of being in the government to present itself as democratic.

The participants of the conference agree on the fact that it is neoliberal global capitalism and neo-conservatism which has incremented and enhanced conditions for the rise of both, populist right parties and right-wing extremist organizations. Following this analysis, the participants concluded that there is an urgent need for a new kind of joint international and transnational solidarity. In order to fulfill this need for resistance, celebration of togetherness and the promotion of alternatives, we decided to form an All-European Network against Right-Wing Extremism.

Inspired by each other, the participants call for support of mobilizations (like the one in Dresden) against right-wing extremist manifestations. We also propose joint action days initiated by existing human rights networks like UNITED for Intercultural Action and the Climate Justice Network in order to strengthen the base for the integration of the movements on a larger scale. That is why we will issue a call for simultaneous common actions in different countries of Europe on specific dates like e.g. 8th-9th of May, the days of commemoration of the defeat of fascism in order to promote simultaneously the establishment of social and ecological rights as an indivisible claim of all people on the Earth. For the purpose of enlarging our network we also call to assist to the 6th European Social Forum (Istanbul, 1 – 4 July, 2010) where we propose a joint seminar with other networks for alternatives to the present social and ecological crisis with the purpose of integrating as many people as possible. Considering this as an ongoing process the participants decided to organize a next conference in autumn 2010, either in Budapest or in Vilnius.

Prague, March 28th, 2010 The participants of the Conference

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Пражская декларация о правом экстремизме в Европе

Около 100 участников из 19 государств Восточной, Центральной и Западной Европы, представляющие широкий спектр социальных движений, правозащитных и экологических организаций и профсоюзов собрались 27-27 марта 2010 года в Праге для участия в проводимой в рамках Европейского социального форума конференции «Альтернатива правому экстремизму в периоде социального и экологического кризиса».

Проведя анализ роста правого экстремизма в различных европейских государствах в контексте социального и экологического кризиса, мы пришли в выводу о его серьезной опасности для гражданских и социальных прав и будущего наших стран. Во многочисленных дискуссиях мы выявили большое разнообразие причин этой угрозы для демократии в государствах Восточной, Центральной и Западной Европы. Эта угроза для демократии имеет глубокие корни в истории фашизма и в растущем социальном неравенстве и безработице настоящего времени.

Мы установили наличие целого спектра крайне правых организаций, начиная от автономных, воинствующих и милитаристских неофашистов, таких как в Латвии, Литве, Эстонии и Германии, до крайне правых тенденций в рамках националистических партий, как в Австрии, Венгрии, во Франции и в Чешской Республике. В Румынии и на Украине крайне правую политику продвигают не только этаблированные и известные крайне правые партии, но и партии, претендующие быть радикально левыми. Возникла также новая тенденция молодежной мобилизации посредством заимствования стиля черной одежды у альтерглобалистских и антифашистских движений и маскировки под автономные движения. С другой стороны, в Турции правый экстремизм интегрирован в государственный аппарат, а правая религиозная партия проводит неолиберальную перестройку государства, используя свое пребывание в правительстве, чтобы выдавать себя в качестве демократов.

Участники конференции согласны в том, что неолиберальный глобальный капитализм и неоконсерватизм расширили и улучшили условия для подъема как правопопулистских партий, так и правых экстремистских организаций. Руководствуясь подобным анализом, участники конференции пришли к выводу о насущной необходимости нового типа международной и транснациональной солидарности. Для удовлетворения этой потребности, мы решили, исходя из нужд сопротивления, проявления чувства единства и продвижения альтернатив, сформировать Общеевропейскую сеть против правого экстремизма.

Вдохновленные друг другом, участники конференции призывают поддержать мобилизацию (подобно тому, как это было в Дрездене) против правоэкстремистских демонстраций. Мы также предлагаем проводить совместные акции по инициативе таких существующих правозащитных организаций как UNITED для интеркультурных акций и Climate Justice Network для укрепления интеграции движений на более масштабной основе. Поэтому мы намереваемся призвать к проведению одновременных общих акций в различных европейских государствах по случаю таких памятных дат как 8-9 мая – дни памяти Победы над фашизмом, для закрепления и обеспечения одновременно как социальных, так и экологических прав в качестве неразделимого требования всех народов Земли. С целью увеличения нашей сети мы также призываем поддержать Шестой Европейский социальный форум (с 1-го по 4 июля 2010г.) в Стамбуле, где мы предлагаем провести с целью интеграции максимального числа людей совместный семинар с другими сетевыми сообществами об альтернативах нынешнему социальному и экологическому кризису. Рассчитывая на продолжение процесса, участники конференции решили организовать следующую конференцию осенью 2010 года в Будапеште или в Вильнюсе.

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Pražská deklarace
konference „Alternativa k pravicovému extremismu v době sociální a ekologické krize“, organizované Evropským sociálním fórem a Českým sociálním fórem, Praha 27. a 28. 3. 2010

Na konferenci o alternativách k pravicovému extremismu v době sociální a ekologické krize, pořádané v rámci Evropského sociálního fóra, se v Praze sešlo zhruba 100 účastníků a účastnic z 19 zemí východní, střední a západní Evropy, kteří reprezentovali velkou škálu sociálních hnutí, lidskoprávních a ekologických organizací a odborů.
Na základě analýz nárůstu pravicového extremismu v jednotlivých zemích v globálním kontextu sociální a ekologické krize jsme došli k závěru, že pravicový extremismus představuje závažné nebezpečí pro občanská a sociální práva a budoucnost našich zemí. V četných diskusích jsme rozebírali jednotlivé příčiny tohoto ohrožení demokracií v zemích východní, střední a západní Evropy, které je hluboce zakořeněno v historii fašismu stejně jako v současných rostoucích sociálních nerovnostech a nezaměstnanosti.
Podoby pravicového extremismu jsou ovlivněny historickou zkušeností jednotlivých zemí. Odhalili jsme celé spektrum krajně pravicových organizací od autonomních, radikálních a militantních neofašistických skupin jako např. v Lotyšsku, Litvě, Estonsku, Rusku a Německu až po pravicové tendence zakotvené v nacionalistických stranách jako např. v Rakousku, Maďarsku, Francii a Česku. V Rumunsku a na Ukrajině jsou extrémně pravicové politiky prosazovány nejen zavedenými a známými pravicovými politickými stranami, ale také stranami, které předstírají, že reprezentují radikální levici. Objevuje se také nová tendence mobilizace mládeže, která přebírá způsob oblékaní do černého od kritiků globalizace a antifašistů a maskuje se za autonomisty. Na druhé straně v Turecku je pravicový extremismus integrován do státního aparátu. Existuje tu náboženská strana prosazující neoliberální restrukturalizaci státu, jež využívá své přítomnosti ve vládě jako příležitost k sebeprezentaci jako demokratické strany.
Účastníci a účastnice konference se shodli na tom, že neoliberální globální kapitalismus a neokonzervatismus vyzdvihly a prohloubily podmínky k růstu jak populistických pravicových stran, tak krajně pravicových extremistických organizací. Po této analýze došli k závěru, že existuje naléhavá potřeba nové společné mezinárodní a transnacionální solidarity. Abychom naplnili tuto potřebu rezistence, semknutosti a uvědomování o alternativách, rozhodli jsme se vytvořit Celoevropskou síť proti pravicovému extremismu.
Účastnice a účastníci se vzájemně inspirovali k výzvě k mobilizacím (jaká proběhla např. v Drážďanech) proti manifestacím pravicových extrémistů. Rovněž navrhujeme společné akční dny iniciované existujícími lidskoprávními sítěmi jako např. UNITED for Intercultural Action nebo Climate Justice Network, což by posílilo základ pro širší a větší integraci hnutí. Proto vyhlásíme výzvu ke společným akcím probíhajícím současně v jednotlivých evropských zemích ve specifických datech jako např. 8. a 9. května, dnech vzpomínek na porážku fašismu, abychom tím současně podpořili naplnění sociálních a ekologických práv jako nedělitelných nároků všech lidí žijících na Zemi.
Za účelem rozšíření naší sítě vyzýváme k účasti na 6. Evropském sociálním fóru v Istanbulu (1. až 4. července 2010), na kterém navrhujeme zorganizovat společný seminář s dalšími sítěmi k diskusi o alternativách k sociální a ekologické krizi, který by měl oslovit co nejširší okruh lidí. Protože jde o kontinuální proces, účastníci se dohodli zorganizovat další konferenci na podzim 2010 buď v Budapešti, nebo ve Vilniusu.
Praha, 28. března 2010                    Schváleno konsenzem účastníků konference

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ESF European Preparatory Assembly (EPA) in Diyarbakir

Tord Björk | CEE,ESF | Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

European Preparatory Assembly (EPA) in Diyarbakir

As per the decision made in Vienna during the EPA (between June 19th and 21st) this EPA was held in Turkey in Diyarbakir on 25th and 26th September. The European Program and Structure Working Group  (EPSWG) with about 10 participants (including about 5 Turkish Social Forum organizers as well as Hermann Dworczak, Alexandra Mecozzi, Thierry De Coster and myself) met in Istanbul on 24th June and discussed about the axes proposals as follows:

1.Global Economic crises, resistance and alternatives

2.Social Rights for Social Europe, Public Services for all

3.Democratic and rights based Europe

4.National and minority rights

5.Discrimination and equality, against male domination and homophobia

6. A sustainable world – agriculture, water, food sovereignity, energy, enviromental and climate change

7.War and peace – against war, militarism, occupation

8.Youth: right to educaiton, work and future

9.Democratising knowledge, creating alternatives

10.Social Movements, the state and future of global justice movement

The participants of EPSWG meeting in Istanbul agreed on shortening the proposed titles of the axes and specifying the contents under subtitles. After having finished this work, the venues of the ESF-6, first of all the Istanbul Technical University (ITU) Taskisla Campus (TC) were visited. This will be the main meeting place, where the registration for the ESF-6 will take place.  The ITU TC is about 10 minutes walking distance from Taksim Square, one of the  most crowded area of Istanbul. The other places (about 30 other venues: movie theaters and cultural centers) are situated in Istiklal Street, close to Taksim.

On 25th September the EPA programme started with a big delay – as usual in the history of EPA- in Diyarbakir at about midday. After the opening speeches, the EPSWG continued its work under the intensive control of the so called „shadow government” of EPA.

The three network meetings (education, CEE and repression) were held after lunchbreak, while the EPSWG was working paralelly. Regretfully due to lack of time there was no possibility to report back to the EPA plenary the following day.

In the late afternoon a timeslot was dedicated to the crisis discussion.

On 26th September  in the morning the report of EPSWG was presented to the plenary session of EPA, followed by many interventions and debates. The discussions about the growing number of axes and subaxes continued the whole day  until 5 p.m., when the inauguration march of MSF started. The finally accepted  themes (axes and subtitles) will be sent to the ESF mailing list.  NO TIME remained for the discussions on the structure and future of ESF as well as for the reports of  the network meetings. NO DECISIONS were made on the exact place and timing of the next EPA either. The venue of the next EPA – as agreed in Vienna- will be in Germany most probably in January or February 2010.  Before the next EPA, the shadow government proposed  to have  an EPSWG meeting either in Paris or in Brussels next November.

General remarks on the Diyarbakir EPA

1.      Participation of CEE countries was the lowest ever, only Russia, Ukraine  and Hungary were present, even nobody from the previous ESF (Malmoe) organizers came to Turkey.

2.      Less and less people are interested in the EPAs, but more and more axes are proposed.

3.      With the exception of the Austrian Social Forum, no solidarity funding (reimbursement) was given to the CEE participants. The very limited EPA solidarity fund, collected in Diyarbakir was spent for the translation system. The participants from Ukraine and Russia had no money back to their homeland and only by the intervention of the Italian comrades (thanks to Raffella Bolini) MSF helped out them to get some financial support.

4.      Despite the positive rhetoric, ESF EPA organizers seem to be uninterested in the CEE region and we are treated unequally. There are three categories of ESF EPA participants: 1. the first class, i.e. mainly the members of the „shadow government” of ESF (the hidden leaders, e.g. especially from France and Italy); 2. the second class, i.e. the participants of the new EU member-states; 3. the third class, i.e. people from the non-EU countries (Ukraine, Russia, Belorus, etc.). There is a real danger that the EPAs will become a closed club of the rich Westerners and CEE will remain marginalized.

5.      Briefly: the Diyarbakir EPA of ESF-6 was a serious step back in the European social forum process..

6.      If the preparations for the ESF-6 in Istanbul in 2010 are not changed radically for the better, you can rely on very few CEE participants, which has no good political message at all!

7.      All previous EPA decisions should have ben respected and executed!

Report of the CEE Network meeting on 25th September

Participants: Igor Gotlib (Russia), Judith Dellheim (Germany), Hermann Dworczak (Austria) Monica Espinoza (Belgium), Matyas Benyik (Hungary)

Moderator: Matyas Benyik

Proposed agenda:

1. Update of the planned CEE Report on the crisis

2. Prepartaions for ESF-6 in Istanbul in 2010

a.)    Raising solidarity fund

b.)    Accomodation, travel, other logistical problems

3. Split in the social forum movements

At the beginning we were talking about the aims of the CEE Network. As it is well-known, this network is dealing with the special problems of the CEE region and with the enlargement of the ESF process towards the East. We share information and are trying to hammer out common proposals for promoting the ESF process.

After the short introduction of the participants we discussed about the planned report of CEE countries on the crisis. This project was initiated originally by Said Gafourov in Athens EPA last spring and was further worked out in Vieanna at the EPA. The revised Plan of Reports were written by Alexander Buzgalin and widely distributed to the Vienna EPA participants as well as sent on the esf mailing lists. The project is open for anybody and the idea is to map the crisis situation in the CEE. Those participating in this work wish to offer our analyses and stategical proposals for wide debate. This common CEE Report can be integrated into an Alternative ESF Strategy to be agreed in Istanbul ESF.

We reiterated our previous proposal, namely that an All European Assembly should be organized in Istanbul ESF on the crisis with 2 delegates of each West and East European country to have a better balance of voices of the ESF participants. At the end of this All European Assembly a common ESF strategy could be formulated.

Until now Russia, Poland, Czechia, Belarus and Hungary decided to prepare a national report. Ukraine has joined this working group during MSF, Romania is still hesitating to participate. Hungary has already elaborated several analyses, one of them was already circulated on the ceesfwg and the European Attac list. The Hungarian situation and an alternative program about the way out of the crisis has been published in Hungarian and will be translated into English. The deadline for the different national reports is end of this year.  The national reports can be further discussed at the next EPA to be held in Germany early next year and edited before Istanbul ESF date.

Solidarity funding for CEE people is an evergreen topic. We repeated our request towards the organisers of the ESF-6 to put much more emphasis on fundraising using up all possibilities, including contacting famous intellectuals, artists, celebrities to popularize  ESF and contribute with donations to the solidarity fund. The Austrian Social Forum showed good example for solidarity and supported the travel of the undersigned. We wish to ask the Turkish Organising Committe (TOC) as the main reponsibles for the ESF-6 to issue an official letter of request for fundraising. This letter can be used by the different ESF organisations to approach trade unions, municipalities, big NGOs to contribute to the solidarity fund. This task must be executed urgently, otherwise we can see no guarantee whatsoever for the massive participation of CEE countries in the Istanbul ESF in 2010. Anyway, the CEE involvement in the ESF is a politcal question, too and the TOC has got an outstanding  responsibility. So please rush launching a fund-raising campaign without any further delay. The question is clear: do you want CEE countries’ massive participation in Istanbul ESF? We need a clear answer from TOC.

Finally, the splits in some of the CEE social forum movements were also discussed. Trying to promote the ESF process in the CEE , Western comrades/organisations could help to organise  meetings on such issues which are commonly shared or seemingly attractive to different groups, for example on the rising fascism and the quick advance of far-right parties/forces in Hungary, Ukraina, Russia or in Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands etc.

Running out of time we could not speak about logistical questions, but the question of a permanent solidarity fund is a precondition of massive CEE involvement.

Mesopotamia Social Forum (MSF) in Diyarbakir

In sharp contrast of the EPA, MSF was a great success with a massive participation of Kurdish people. During the 3 days of MSF about ten-thousand people visited the venue (Sümer Park). The inauguration demonstartion of MSF on 26th September, on Saturday from Park Orman to Sümer Park was a delightful, colorful and enthusiastic event with about 4 thousand people, followed by a rock concert . Some details of the march was already sent by Hermann Dworczak to the esf mailing list.

On the first day of MSF (Sunday 27th Sept.) big attendance could be seen. The debates on the youth, the energy wars, identity and culture, women, Palestine dominated the issues.Dilemma of imperialist globalisation and alternatives, ecology, peoples struggle in Latin America attracted many visitors.

The second day (Monday, 28th Sept.) was calm and much less participants I have seen. Personally I was interested in the anti-racist struggles and was surprised to see that only about 20 people were there, mainly the activists of International Amed Camp. Same little attendance I experienced in the Salon 5 (named Ferat) regarding  the labour movements and trade unions in Middle East. In the evening the women  march with torch was an interesting event. The Diyarbakir police stopped the demonstartors at halfway and was forced them to turn back to Sümer Park.

The last day (Tuesday) attracted more people than the previous one, but not so much as the first day. I was very interested in the atrenoon discussions of democratic solution in Kurdish question with the panel speakers of DTP (Emine Ayna) and the Greens ( Bilge Contepe) and a journalist-writer (Oral Calislar). The Salon 1 (Tigris) was almost full, a lot of media was present, too. Kurdish question has been a burning issue for years, or even decades and caused a lot of sufferings. This issue was mentioned not only in this  seminar, but others as well (e.g. ongoing violations of rights).

The three day MSF ended at 6,30 p.m. holding the Social Movements Assembly, where about 12 reports were read about the different networks (e.g. WOMEN, YOUTH, ANTI-WAR, etc.)

Budapest, 1st October, 2009.

Matyas Benyik,  Hungarian Social Forum Network Coordinator

ESF European Preparatory Assembly Berlin January 29th /31st 2010

Tord Björk | ESF | Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

European Preparatory Assembly
Berlin January 29th /31st 2010

Invitation

The next European Preparatory Assembly for the ESF will take place in Berlin January 29th /31st 2010

You’ll find below a first draft of the agenda. The network meetings will be Friday Jan 29th between 09.00 h and 18.00 h. They are all self organized. The Networks should send their room requests as soon as possible.
For the EPA we have organized simultaneous translation in German, English, and French only for the assembly.

The percentage reimbursement of travel costs for East Europeans will depend on the participation fees. There is no special fund and no guarantee.

Representatives of organizations will pay 50,00 €, individuals 10,00 € as participation fee.

Everybody who needs a visa please send your request immediately to
epa-registration@attac.de with all required dates as address, validity of the passport, issued by, date and place of birth, etc.

It would be helpful for the organizers to register in advance. Please send all registrations, requests and questions to epa-registration@attac.de

Welcome to Berlin and best regards

For the organizing group

Hugo Braun

European Social Forum Programme Group meeting held in Paris on 21/22 November

Tord Björk | ESF | Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Notes from European Social Forum Programme Group meeting held in Paris on 21/22 November

20 people joined the meeting from; No-Vox, LDH,COBAS, ISF/Czechia, ACTIT,
BEKSAV, Social Forum of Turkey, AEDH, CARITAS, ESF Activist News Agency,
Greek Social Forum, Transform, Attac, Belgian Social Forum, FSU, Aitec/IPAM

Agenda:
1. Program Process
2. Assembly of Assemblies
3. Thematic Spaces
4.Big Events \ Plenaries
5.A day or timeslot for Regional issues
6.OPENESF – Websites

Program Process:
French Commmittee’s proposal to use  networks and thematic groups to
formulate the program  together with the traditional way of getting
proposals for activities was accepted with general concensus. It is
important to note that that the French position is really not impeeding
the groups outside of the networks to have their activities. But using
networks/thematic groups to build the program on collective proposals.
And starting with the Berlin EPA, different thematics groups (networks)
will try to formulate their proposals on that theme.

Calendar of Program Process:
15th Of December, Starting of Seminar Proposals
15th of March Starting of the Voulntary Merging
25th of April End of Voluntary Merging
11-12-13rd of May Program Working Group meeting in Istanbul –
Finalization of  the Program Proposal by European Program Working Group
14-15-16th of May Last EPA in Istanbul; Finalization Of the Program

It is important to finalize the program as early as possible in order to
publiticize the ESF 2010.
Each organization can propose at most 3 activities and each network can
propose at most 5 activities.
Social Forum of Turkey will declare the exact number of the rooms and
their prices in the Berlin EPA.

Assembly of  Assemblies:
On the last day of the Forum (Sunday) there will be first Thematic
Assemblies and after that there will be an Assembly of Assemblies. In that
case, there won’t be a need to have a Social Movements Assembly. It will
be a good idea to use existing and newly formed networks for Thematic
Assemblies. But also some other groups can propose Thematic Assemblies.
Proposals for Thematic Assemblies will be merged too.

Thematic Spaces:
As a place to meet with other activists who are working on the same issues
and create a visibility to certain themes, Thematic Spaces are very
important. Organizing Committee of Turkey will come to the Berlin EPA with
a concrete proposal on how much places there are for Thematic Spaces and
how much will be the cost for Thematic Spaces.

Big Events:
Opening session will be a big event which will give the Forum visibility.
And also there will be some concerts, cultural activities etc.  But Social
Forum of Turkey also proposed to have very limited numbers of plenaires in
Istanbul ESF with notable speakers in order to boost the participation.
There was an opposition to this proposal. Social Forum of Turkey will
prepare a more concrete proposal about plenaries to Berlin EPA.

A day on Regional issues:
There was a proposal about a day on regional problems, one day before the
ESF 2010. But since there will be World March of Women Assembly and March,
one day before the ESF, we won”t be able to have a day before the ESF.
Social Forum of Turkey will discuss this issue and if there is a need for
a timeslot for regional issues, half of the First day can be used for this
or some other time slot.

OPENESF:
Openesf is an important tool to collobaratively prepare the activities fo
ESF 2010 and for following the work after the ESF. And right now it has a
cost of around 400 Euros per month which need to be paid if we want to go
on using this tool. It is up to the Social Forum of Turkey to decide if
they want to use this tool or something else etc.

Sent by Social Forum of Turkey

G20 Pittsburgh demonstration and climate justice camp

Protesting against G20 failure in addressing climate change

Some 4000 to 10000 protesters gathered at the G20 Summit and 4900 policemen. The G20 failed in addressing the issue of how to solve the crisis for those most severly hit in the South and focused mostly on moralistic superficial goals as actions against bonuses for bosses, an issue that looks good in the mass media in rich countries.

The main demonstration People’s March was initiated by the peace organization Thomas Merton Center. The issues raised by protesters had a wide range from supporting workers hit by the crisis to peace and climate change. Camps were organized as Three Rivers Climate Convergence (3RCC), pink code for women’s peace activism and others.

3RCC reports as many other groups harassments by the police from refusal to allow demonstrations to walk according to the permit given to the use of new anti-demonstration weapons. The Police unleashed tear gas and sound cannon. Alternative media reports almost 200 arrested, the police 83. 19 businessmen had their windows smashed.

It seems as the G20 protests were more a testing ground for technology than a place were politics was developed. The new police weapon against demonstrators  was in use as well as pepper spray, extra long sticks etc. The demonstrators used Twitter to communicate. The puppets that once was a favourite in antiglobalization demonstrations is no gone according to one report. Instead masks with politicians are as popular as ever.

Workshops were puppets were built before demonstrations was popular for the police in implementing a new police strategy after Seattle built on lies and knowledge of psychology. In April 2000 and later the police claimed that molotov cocktail or similar weapons were inside the buildings were the puppets were made. Then they stormed the workshop with predictable result. Protesters came to the place in solidarity, there were clashes with the police and the proactive strategy had been successful. The police could both arrest those that had strong solidariet feelings and present an image to the media of violent demonstrators. Of course the molotov cocktails never existed. This proactive US police tactic to escalate violence at Summits were in June 2001 brought to Europe by Håkan Jaldung, head of the police operation during the EU Summit in Gothenburg and partcipant in education for police offciers 40 times in the US. The difference was that while the US police had used the tactic against puppet workshops with some 75 people inside the Swedish police used against the mina convergence center, counter summit and sleeping quarters of 700 people. Jaldung made the action in close connection with US intelligence against the advice from Swedish national security police who had many infiltrators inside and saw no reason to storm the convergence center. The result was chaos during three days initiatied by the police, shooting against demonstrators with live ammunition and 90 per cent of the population supporting the police. 50 demonstrators were sentenced in total 50 years to prison and the left split blaiming each other for the riots instead of defending those on trial. So watch out for US police tactics.

The article below that have received very many responses and started a debate is: Are We Addicted to Rioting?

Tord Björk

From Gipfelsoli Newsletter – Globalized Solidarity:

G20 Protests Rock Pittsburgh

News, updates and analysis on the G20 summit in Pittsburgh and associated
protests.

See http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=2009092501263020#comments

———————————————————————-
Protests at Group of 20 Conference [Photos]

More: http://www.gipfelsoli.org/Home/G20_2009_Pittsburgh_Pictures

———————————————————————-
G20 riots in Pittsburgh – How I organized them via Twitter

During the recent G20 protests in Pittsburgh a group of on-the-ground
participants, residents from Pittsburgh, mainstream and alternative media
writers, left-wing activists and regular folks came together to form a virtual
community on Twitter. We shared info, were collectively shocked at police
violence and plugged important gaps in mainstream coverage of the protests.
Here, Mike Gogulski responds to the charge that he was responsible for rioting
protesters.

by Mike Gogulski
from NoState.com

More:
http://socialistwebzine.blogspot.com/2009/10/g20-riots-in-pittsburgh-how-i-organized.html

———————————————————————-
Are We Addicted to Rioting?

The G20 is upon us, and though BBC world news featured some of “the troubles” in
Pittsburgh, on the ground reports hardly match up with the media-inflation,
police-inflation, and activist-inflation of the actual thing. As one who was
not present in Pittsburgh, I cannot give a first-hand account. Phone calls with
friends on the ground and various independent and corporate-media accounts are
my window to the events. But as one who has participated in countless similar
events, who didn’t attend the G20 due to feelings of disconnection/confusion
with my own people, I felt strongly enough to write this.

More: http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=2009092714272755#comments

———————————————————————-
Robocops Come to Pittsburgh…and Bring the Latest Weaponry with Them

By mike ferner

No longer the stuff of disturbing futuristic fantasies, an arsenal of “crowd
control munitions,” including one that reportedly made its debut in the U.S.,
was deployed with a massive, overpowering police presence in Pittsburgh during
last week’s G-20 protests.

Nearly 200 arrests were made and civil liberties groups charged the many
thousands of police (most transported on Port Authority buses displaying
“PITTSBURGH WELCOMES THE WORLD”), from as far away as Arizona and Florida with
overreacting”and they had plenty of weaponry with which to do it.

Bean bags fired from shotguns, CS (tear) gas, OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) spray,
flash-bang grenades, batons and, according to local news reports, for the first
time on the streets of America, the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).

Mounted in the turret of an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), I saw the LRAD in
action twice in the area of 25th, Penn and Liberty Streets of Lawrenceville, an
old Pittsburgh neighborhood. Blasting a shrill, piercing noise like a
high-pitched police siren on steroids, it quickly swept streets and sidewalks
of pedestrians, merchants and journalists and drove residents into their homes,
but in neither case were any demonstrators present. The APC, oversized and
sinister for a city street, together with lines of police in full riot gear
looking like darkly threatening Michelin Men, made for a scene out of a movie
you didn’t want to be in.

More:
http://www.opednews.com/articles/2/Robocops-Come-to-Pittsburg-by-mike-ferner-090928-713.html

———————————————————————-
Groggy but not subdued, anarchists hail protest success with little damage

They weren’t stockpiling human waste to throw at police.

They didn’t set cars ablaze or chain themselves together in “sleeping dragons”
with PVC pipe.

The anarchists who police and media had warned for months could wreak havoc on
the city during the G-20 summit didn’t exactly fulfill that expectation.
Instead, they smashed some windows and turned over a few Dumpsters, flooded the
streets of Lawrenceville and staged sporadic uprisings for hours elsewhere, met
by a large contingent of riot police at almost every turn.

Some were sprayed with OC gas, others pelted with rubber bullets. Still others
were arrested in the demonstrations, which they had spent their summers
planning.

More: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09269/1000990-482.stm

————————————————-

Pittsburgh police use sub-lethal weapons against protestors

Mega-events are often the time for some surveillance / control / security innovation and experimentation by states. In what seems to be a rather unwelcome first, the Pittsburgh police have used a military sonic canon to clear protestors off the streets at the G20 summit. These devices are among many so-called ’sub-lethal weapons’ (see the article by Steve Wright here) that have been gradually migrating from military to civilian use for a number of years – see for example the ongoing debate over the use in the UK of the ultrasonic ‘Mosquito’ device, which is supposed to target young people; its makers rather cynically advertise it as ’so effective that they tried to ban it’.

The particular weapon used by the Pittsburgh police is the Long Range Accoustic Device (LRAD) made by the American Technology Corporation, which generates a piercing noise that is not only extremely unpleasant, it can damage eardrums and cause heart problems. It was rather eeriely appropriate to see them being used (as you can on The Guardian’s website) on the same day that TNI / Statewatch released their report on the security-industrial complex and a reminder that this is a global phenomenon.

More: http://ubisurv.wordpress.com/2009/09/25/pittsburgh-police-use-sub-lethal-weapons-against-protestors/

———————————————————————-
G-20 opponents, police clash on Pittsburgh streets

PITTSBURGH — Police threw canisters of pepper spray and smoke at marchers protesting the Group of 20 summit Thursday after anarchists responded to calls to disperse by rolling trash bins and throwing rocks.

The march turned chaotic at just about the same time that President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrived for a meeting with leaders of the world’s major economies.

The clashes began after hundreds of protesters, many advocating against capitalism, tried to march from an outlying neighborhood toward the convention center where the summit is being held.

Police in riot gear stood guard near the protesters, who banged on drums and chanted “Ain’t no power like the power of the people, ’cause the power of the people don’t stop.”

The hundreds of marchers included small groups of self-described anarchists, some wearing dark clothes and bandanas and carrying black flags. Others wore helmets and safety goggles.

More: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5izJGY1GNeNYgNG6q1N0bsXCVfBeAD9ATUDIG1

———————————————————————-
66 arrested in Pittsburgh G20 protests

POLICE in Pittsburgh have arrested 66 people after a night of battles with protesters who tried to march on a summit of the world’s top leaders, the FBI says.
Twenty-four people were arrested yesterday when groups of diehard youths refused to disperse when police used pepper spray and fired bean bag rounds to break up an unauthorised demonstration of around 1000 protesters.

Anarchists had attempted to march on the conference centre hosting the Group of 20 summit of the world’s leading economies, which anti-capitalist activists regard as an unaccountable group that ignores the world’s poor.

A further 42 people were arrested when protests erupted in Schenley Plaza near the University of Pittsburgh in the evening, the FBI said in a statement today.

More: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26126665-12377,00.html

You find more similar material at www.gipfelsoli.org

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