[fse-esf] RESPONSE TO ITALIAN STATEMENT
alex.callinicos at kcl.ac.uk
Mon Jan 2 17:10:26 CET 2006
First of all, let me wish everyone active in the European Social Forum process a Happy New Year. I would like also to express my thanks to the comrades of Synaspismos in Greece, whose president, Alekos Alavanos, has played an important role in exposing the involvement of the British Secret Intelligence Service in kidnapping and mistreating 28 Pakistanis in Athens after the July bombings in London. This is a good example of how, in different countries, we can support each other in opposition the 'war on terrorism'.
Like (I suspect) many comrades, I won't be able to attend the European Preparatory Assembly in Vienna at the end of the week. So this message is an opportunity to contribute to the discussion and to express some concern about the statement circulated by Franco Russo and other Italian comrades (Marco Berlinguer, Piero Bernocchi, Raffaela Bolini, Alessandra Mecozzi) just before Christmas.
I sympathize completely with their desire to have the question of the date of the Athens ESF resolved soon and I understand also their desire that the Forum should not clash with the Italian parliamentary elections. I think we all share this desire and appreciate the importance of getting rid of Berlusconi. This debate should at least settle beyond any doubt that, whatever the Porto Alegre Charter may say, we have an interest in the political process and make preferences between different political parties. As to the date, let's hope that a compromise that satisfies everyone can be agreed in Vienna.
I must say, however, that I was unhappy with the main thrust of the statement by Franco and the others. This was very strongly to attack the proposals for the 'main events' put forward by the Greek Programme Group. I don't say I agree with everything in these proposals, but the Italian statement is highly problematic.
Franco and the others say: 'If we accepted these proposals, we would cancel all the discussions we had in previous EPAs, and contradict the decisions we have all taken together'. For example, the comrades assert: 'We tried to emulate the formula experimented in Porto Alegre', of having a Forum organized around thematically arranged self-organized seminars.
This is a very partial picture of the real situation. At the first of the present cycle of EPAs in Athens in February, a number of us were very critical of the last World Social Forum in Porto Alegre because of the extreme geographical and political fragmentation it produced. We agreed on a procedure, drawn up by Raffaella and discussed in much detail, that, while giving wide scope for self-organization, assigned to the EPA the responsibility for 'a political discussion to identify the axes and to a debate on priorities', and affirmed that 'the evaluation of consultation [on the programme] will be a political one, as well as the discussion on axes and priorities'.
What has happened in fact is that subsequent EPAs have failed to perform this responsibility of making overall political decisions about priorities. This was at the insistence, especially in Istanbul, of the Italian comrades. Piero Bernocchi summed up the position by saying that we were a rainbow coalition that could not make political decisions. I have to say that, had this been the attitude of the Italian comrades and of the rest of us involved in preparing for the first ESF, then Florence would not have been the political landmark it was and 15 February 2003 would not have become the greatest day of global protest in history.
It has been left to the Greek comrades, who have to organize the event and make it a success for their movements, to take the political judgements that the EPA has refused to make. The fact that they were able to reach a consensus on their programme proposals, given the deep divisions that we know exist on the radical left in Greece, is an impressive achievement that others should not dismiss lightly.
That doesn't mean that we should accept everything they say. But they deserve better than the blanket dismissal they have received from Alessandra, Franco, Marco, Piero, and Raffaella. Not for the first time, it seems that the Italian comrades need to be reminded to treat the national organizers of an ESF with the same respect and solidarity that they received at the time of Florence.
We constantly tell ourselves that ours is a very diverse movement. Let's hope that at Vienna this diversity is better respected than it has been in recent EPAs. We have different views about the programme and how the ESF should be organized. That means that we ALL have to compromise, and not to insist that only our own views about both content and methodology should be reflected in the final decisions. Good luck in Vienna!
With best wishes for the New Year,
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