Workshops Notes

 Towards an Autonomous Space at the ESF

Towards an Autonomous Space at the European Social Forum in Florence November 2002

Outcome of the meeting in Leiden / NL during the PGA conference.

Diverse groups and activists from around Europe (including from Italy) that have met at the No Border camp in Strasbourg (19.-28.7) and at the PGA (Peoples Global Action) European conference in Leiden / NL (31.8-4.9) have been working on the idea of an autonomous space in Florence. The initial political motivations for such an autonomous space are expresses in a letter released after the Strasbourg camp (see first report from Strasbourg pasted below).

The following call is addressed to all grassroots groups and individuals, that consider Florence to be an important political moment to be present and that would be interested in shaping, organising and taking part in an autonomous space as described below. The ideas expressed in Leiden that started defining what an autonomous forum in Florence might look like are these:

The timing and the dangers of repression after direct actions, particularly the more confrontational ones should be carefully evaluated. The autonomous space should offer the possibility to organise actions. We should be aware that the level of social conflict in Italy is likely to be high (general strike announced for mid- October).

This is not a mobilisation call, it just aims to reflect the desire and will of many people to go ahead with such an initiative. It is obvious that the political and logistical involvement of Italian groups will be crucial.
The Movimiento Antagonista Toscano could unfortunately not be present in Leiden and sent their contributions by mail. The meeting in Leiden considered that it couldn't make a call for a mobilisation to an autonomous forum, given that the situation in Italy and in Florence remained unclear in terms of the political involvement of groups willing to help implementing the project. Both more local and international involvement is needed to make it happen. This is why the Leiden meeting calls the comrades in Italy that share the ideas and the spirit of what the autonomous forum could look like, to come together to evaluate the ideas expressed here, and give an international response.
The meeting in Leiden thought an international meeting soon in Florence would be necessary to continue working on the collective understanding of our intentions, work on a political programme and to co-ordinate the local
and international logistical preparations.


An email list has been used to facilitate the preparations: you can subscribe by sending an empty email to the list.
Leiden, during the PGA European conference, September 2002

Proposal for discussion about the creation of an autonomous space in relation to the European Social Forum (ESF) in Florance.

As part of the gatherings proposed by PGA during the Bordercamp in Strasbourg, some groups connected to the network, and others from various places around Europe (Spanish State, Italy, Finland, etc.), talked about how our movements, groups and networks should respond to the holding of the ESF in November in Florence. We agreed to launch the idea of constituting a concrete space for those of us who traditionally work with structures that are decentralized, horizontal, asembley-based, and anti-authoritarian; a space that would maintain its autonomy with respect to the "offical" space of the ESF, but at the same time remain connected, allowing for a specific kind of intervention. This would mean, specifically, having one leg outside and another inside the ESF (the first, in any case, with two feet).
This proposal comes out of some collective reflections that still remain open in just about all aspects. We summarize them here, outlining some of the ideas that we considered and which we want to share in order to open a participatory debate and process in the construction of this initiative: ? The decision to hold the ESF next November in Florence was taken in the last World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. Since then, the process has continued through preparatory gatherings that have taken place in diverse European cities. On paper, this process is open and participatory, but many of us consider that, in practice, the ESF is shaped by political cultures that are less participatory than our own, with manners of operating that are less inclusive.

However, it is beyond debate that the ESF will be a moment of strong visibility in Europe, from which we cannot be alientated. The idea of opening an autonomous space connected to the ESF is designed to constitute a space with which, as much in form as in content, we feel more identified, in order to take part in this moment of visibility, in a gathering which will bring together thousands of people. ? This autonomous space should visibilize the diversity of the movement of movements, but also our irreconciliable differences with respect to models that attempt to reform capitalism. The space should not only incorporate differences with the program of the ESF in terms of "contents," but also in terms of the organizational model and the forms of political action: participation in Florence through diverse actions is a fundamental aspect, together with gatherings and discussions. We think that this space should not exist exclusively in parallel, outside of the ESF, which would mean in practice our invisibility; we want to take part in the official space of the ESF.

Participation from an autonomous space in the ESF could happen through:

  1. interventions in the context of thematic proposals in the official program,
  2. incorporation of new issues,
  3. discussion of the ESF itself as a political and organizational model. We still need to think about ways to do this which
    1. stress our autonomy and equal footing with the ESF and do not allow it to portray us as some kind of "junior process" within its own framework, and
    2. are highly visible in the midst of the ESF proceedings.

Another of our concerns has been how to build the process that would produced this space, and how to think of a model for acheiving this. We have some concrete proposals to present: We propose continuing the discussion in the next PGA gathering in Leiden, which many of the groups that have participated in this debate in Strasbourg will attend. We hope that in Leiden there will be more broad based participation, more representative of our diversity. The next step might be meeting in Barcelona in the beginning of October, where the ESF will have its last preperatory meeting, so that we can sort of "test out" the prototypical model of outside/inside relation to the ESF. There also exists the possibility of meeting in Florence, in the weeks previous to the ESF in order to further define the model of the space, in its form and contents. People coming from Florence, the Tuscan Antagonist Movement, have been working for some time on the idea of occupying the city, outside of the official program of the ESF, through the model of Thematic Plazas, open debates and gatherings that would take place in the plazas of Florence.

They suggest that the Antagonist Movement could take care of an important part of the logistical work, funtamentally in terms of organizing spaces for meeting and sleeping. Together with the idea of Thematic Plazas, other ideas have been already proposed by diverse movements and groups: for example, reproducing in Florence the Intergalactika space, which already took place in Porto Alegre. Other ideas for laboratories about political ideas and practices were also mentioned. There is a will to work collectively for a model of an autonomous space that integrates these proposals and others.

In any case, the fundamental question of logistics and finances for our space remains open. There are proposals about using the resources of the ESF itself, but without doubt, this is an issue which relates to the autonomy of our space and, therefore, is not just a practical debate, but also a political one.

The territorial context of the ESF: a hot autumn in Italy. There will be judicial processes around the events in Genova, and also a General Strike. There is a general senstion among antagonist movements that we find ourselves at an impasse. We think it is important to coordinate our efforts in order to converge in this space in Florence, which should demonstrate our diversity as well as the strength of our collective work. This space will provide a new opportunity to reformulate our social and political struggles.

We call on everyone to participate in Leiden, to coordinate and provide ourselves with concrete tools so that the results of this proposals are sufficiently solid and representative.

Strasbourg, Bordercamp, July 26, 2002.

2.- People's Global Action (PGA) hallmarks

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