ESF-6: Assembly “Solidarity of the East and the West”

Tord Björk | CEE,ESF,right wing,Uncategorized | Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Assembly “Solidarity of the East and the West”
6th ESF Istanbul, 3rd  July 2010

Present 56 participants from 21 countries: Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, Turkey

Facilitator: Leo Gabriel
After the total failure of the Turkish organizers to facilitate and support the participation of social and environmental movements from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), this participation and this assembly were only enabled thanks to generous short notice donations of the World Social Forum Expansion Commission “Rosa Luxemburg Foundation”, the European leftist network transform!, members of the European Parliament from the GUE/NGL faction as well as members of the German Federal Parliament from Die Linke (The Left).

Russian Antifascist with translator on struggle against right wing extremism

Co-operation between the East and the West in fighting right-wing extremism (RWE)
Rights of the Mother Earth, campaigning before the summit in Cancun

Tord Björk: We have to address the crisis in CEE jointly. Lot of big and rich WE organisations are reluctant to work together or even to help because they feel themselves superior. In fact, some little movements in CEE function better than big Western European organisations or TUs despite their own very bad political, legal and economic conditions and very limited financial and human resources in CEE countries.
Said Gafurov: Social movements and SF in Russia are no more marginalized, they become appropriate media attention, thanks to the help of some people from WSF and ESF. However, there is a lack of information what is happening in other CEE countries.
Françoise: E.g. women in Poland have lost their rights, like the right for abortion.
Leo Gabriel informed about the establishment of the “Prague Spring II – all-European network against right-wing extremism and populism” and recommended to make use of its resources and possibilities and to develop it jointly as an information hub between the East and the West.

Alexander Buzgalin in action at ESF

a) To distribute information as much as possible and on different levels: website and lobbying of left and liberal mass media.
b) Alexander Buzgalin from Russia proposed to organize a conference under an ultimate condition: those CEE groups who are not able to work together will not be granted any financial support from Western donor foundations.
c) To integrate into the existing structure of the network on RWE a discussion on fundamental questions in education, health and gender.
d) To create a method of exchanging opinions and research results on solutions of the crisis.
f) Invitation for a conference in Kiev on Climate change in September and against RWE in St.Petersburg on the 3rd November 2010.
g) Follow up of the seminars on Free Trade, Feminism and the Lisbon Treaty held at 5th ESF.

Conclusions: Assembly “Solidarity of the East and the West”

1.    With regard to the upcoming European mobilisations it was said that it is preferable to develop simultaneous activities against crises, poverty, unemployment in many countries during the time of the big demonstration on 29th September in Brussels. The slogan ”Human beings are more important than banks” was suggested as well as the integration of our struggle against racism and xenophobia.
2.    The open All-European Mobilizing Committee should support the co-operation and participation of CEE movements for the next EPAs and ESF, based upon the good experience with frequent Skype conferences
3.    The open-esf website should be renewed and continued with a better balanced participation of women and of CEE movements.
4.    Everyone is invited to participate in the network “Prague Spring II” and to integrate other issues into its work, e.g. women’s issues, sustainability or social issues.
5.    The next ESF should take place either in a CEE country or in one of the neighbouring countries like Austria.

Seminar on right wing extremism intiated by the ESF network Prague Spring II

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.


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


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.

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.

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.

ESF 2010: Das Europäische Sozialforum am politischen Abgrund        PDF         Drucken         E-Mail
von Martin Suchanek,        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.

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.

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?

ESF Istanbul 2010
Another Social Forum was possible, 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.

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

Some more pictures from  ESF in Istanbul

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


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.


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


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