A reply to Linden Ferrer from Massimo De Angelis

This very useful reply went around the ESF English mobilisation list.
Friends who are concerned by the shape of the emerging social forum movement should GET INVOLVED and try to re-shape it! In England join the ESF list by going to www.mobilise.org.uk and clicking on 'contact', and if you can be in London on January 15th then keep the evening free for the next 'open' meeting.

Date: Sun, 22 Dec 2002
Re: World Forum Movement: Abandon or Contaminate

a comment on Linden Farrer article, World Forum Movement: abandon or contaminate, distributed in the list on 19/12/2002 (pasted below)

This good contribution is helpful in warning against the dangers of cooptation of our movement, and helps to set the record straight in terms of what forces contributed to the birth and early development of the "anti-globalisation movement" (or better and in a more positive note, the global justice and solidarity movement). In doing so however, I fear it risks falling into the same logic of those that it criticizes.

Yes, Linden Ferrer is right to point out that there are many top-down forces in this movement. And yes he is right to argue that historically they tend to operate with practices that exclude rather than include. But nobody can negate that today these tendencies and these organisations face themselves great challenges from the movement itself. In fact they face continuous challenges.

The people in the movement that share Linded Ferrer's healthy preoccupations, should certainly continue to pursue the "hub" experience - organise autonomously and spread the seed of self-organisation throughout the movement and beyond - but there is nobody preventing them AT THE SAME TIME to attend the many European meetings being held to prepare next ESF in Paris. Please attend, and get involved in the process because wherever there is a democratic space being open (ESF/WSF) there is the need for people helping to **keep it** open! And if you believe that it is not open enough, please do not just denounce this, as if the rest of us working within it is a bunch of wankers, but show also some respect and seize the rhetoric of the fora movement (inclusion, participation, democracy, horizontality) to your advantage in order to press for more openness, inclusion, democracy and participation.

Another issue that I would like to comment on is the way the article follows stereotypical representations of organizations. It is just enough that behind a group there is a party (behind GR there is SWP, behind No Sweat there is WP, behind ATTAC there is, as some say, a Trotskist plot, and so on) to have "proven" that whatever that group does is "bad". This way of arguing by "enunciation" is very similar of course to what traditionally these and other similar parties have done in their long history of splitting. Yes, maybe some of these organizations were born as "front", as cover for something else. Yes indeed, we have to be careful and warned that we may be instrumental to their own ends and we must be prepared to raise and challenge this any time it emerges. But nobody can negate the fact that in the context in which they operate, these organizations (the so called "fronts") a) have a function that nobody else cover at the moment [for example organize mass meetings and discussion, mobilize, organize (yes, some time they dis-organise) mass transport for demos] b) represent a visible entry, educational and reference point for many people who have never been involved into politics before. When we criticize these broad groups, we should not forget that the people involved in them are of all kind, have concrete and diverse histories, and deserve our respect, as we all do.

I think that this article should be debated for the issues it raises. These are for example the marginalisation of anarchists at the WSF in Porto Alegre, or the exclusion from the Asian Social Forum of a mass movement such as the Karnataka Indian Farmers' Union (KRRS); the question of how do we conduct our meetings, who is supposed to speak, what do we want from our meetings, how do we organize them, and so on. But if you believe that the fora should not be a façade for allowing a new emerging political class to enter the palace of power but part of the process to **make real** another world of concrete empowerment and participatory democracy, I think it is vital to bring this debate **inside** the WSF movement.



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