The beginning

Tord Björk | ESF | Sunday, January 18th, 2009

It was in June 2007 that my journey Malmö-Belem-Istanbul started. The chair of Friends of the Earth Sweden  Ellie Cijvat, was walking upside down in Australia and someone had to go instead of her from Friends of the Earth Sweden to a Nordic meeting in Copenhagen to discuss if ESF 2008 should be placed in Malmö in Sweden or in the Danish capital. Louise Pettersson and I took the two-hour trip by train from Kristianstad to Copenhagen.

It became an interesting experience. Since before I have strongly critized how professionalisation of popular movements turn members into recievers of service and builds a system of non-governmental organisations limiting themselves to either a narrow range of issues or a narrow way of working. I had also criticising social forums in public debate more than maybe anyone else in Sweden. I claimed that the social forums by excluding in practice liberation movements as the Zapatistas were splitting the global justice movement.

I soon became coordinator of the international contacts for the European Social Forum. My criticism against the problems of professionalisation has been more than confirmed. In many aspects the ESF process towards, during and after ESF has been a caricature of how good intentions can be turned into unnecessary political and practical problems. I made a first assessments of the preparatory process in early July which has been published by Network Institute on Global Democracy- More assessments are in progress.

So how come that I anyway commit myself to working voluntarly to support the social forum process? Still there are good intentions behind the social forum idea. A reform is necessary if it should be part of the solution or problem when a general political debate on the global crisis and its many dimensions as well as building alternatives must be linked to collective action. Time will tell if this will be possible or not. Meanwhile it is of importance to discuss both the social forum process and other ways of cooperation between popular movements to make the world more sustainable and democratic.

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