Report from the PGA European Conference

held in Milan, March 24-25, 2001

Discussion texts and introductions from participating groups

working group reports from Milan:

Global to Local workshop
European Convenor/Cochabamba working group
last plenary
coming soon: Labour workshop, Communications working group

This is a preliminary report - more will follow...

Hi everyone -
hope you've all recovered! Here's an overview of the PGA euro-meet i've written up for my local group, which might help jog our collective memory as well. I also have notes from the cochabamba/convenor working groups which i'll write up and post.
Then there's the critique :-)
Del (who, when not practising sleep deprivation at various gatherings, is usually found reclaiming the streets and such-like in London).

(edited by a support group member...)

An overview of the PGA european meeting (Milano 24/25th March 01)

technical scetch: a warm spring weekend mostly spent in a variety of large halls - and the garden patio area - in the very large Leoncavello social centre, Milano. On arrival we were encouraged to register and put any agitprop on display, shown the sleeping area, given a red name-card and told of the leoncavello 'helpers' wearing yellow cards. The food and drink was plentiful (tho' with hindsight we could have sorted some financial help for easterners or the penny-less) and the showers cold! The main meeting assemblies used english language, hand signals, and a microphone 'speaking system' with a central PA requiring the passing of one or two mics around a succession of impromptu 'facilitators' and anyone else wanting to speak ( it resembled at times a surreal activist chatshow!). Unamplified translations took place in different areas of the hall for at least spanish and italian..


The first morning session began, with a plenary assembly of around 300 people from about 80 different groups, mainly from western europe but a few from eastern european groups and a number of participants from columbia, n.america and other regions of the world. After an all-to-brief intro to hand signals for feedback, speaking and generally interrupting, a couple of London Reclaim the Streets speakers gave an short intro to PGA and their convenor experience, followed by a Ya Basta speaker intro to their present convenor-ing of western europe and the proposed agenda for the meeting.

There was a request to be allowed to film the meetings but many participants weren't happy with this so no agreement was given. It was also mentioned that there was a number of journo's present and that no-one here was speaking for PGA. The 'hallmarks of the PGA alliance' were then asked for and read out, followed by a go-round of all the groups present giving a short introduction to themselves and their situations (presentations of participant groups, available on various lists, lap and tabletops, will hopefully be collated and circulated soon).

There followed, in response to intro's from Workers Power (UK) and the Socialist Workers Party (UK) in the go-round, a number of speakers from other groups opposing their participation in the meeting on the grounds that they were authoritarian/trotskyist groups organising and acting counter to the PGA approach and hallmarks. While this was generally agreed, because they were already present, there was thought to be three broad options:

  1. allow full participation,
  2. remain, but only with observer status,
  3. their exclusion from the meeting. Observer status seemed preferable to most and after some discussion the groups in question agreed to take observer status (with the proviso of speaking in the working group on the Genoa G8 events). This meant though that they were not seen as part of the PGA network and were not to be involved in any decision-making processes of PGA.

A summary was then given of the previous night's (late and tired) assembly of those already arrived who had discussed the agenda and 'how to proceed' over the two days. The goal for the hosts Ya Basta was explained as, 'making a map of the composition of the PGA network in Europe and beyond' and framed in three main topics (as well as work on specifics): 'where we are now, how we will act, and how we see the future of the PGA network in europe (and the world)'. The agenda was agreed and additions were asked for and discussed before the session was ended for lunch.

The afternoon plenary began with a presentation of the finalised agenda and its' discussion; followed by presentations of working groups that were to happen or it was hoped would happen. A beginning point about the morning 'authoritarian left' discussion was groaned off. A speaker from the Columbia working group (which had been meeting before and parallel to the euro-meet with columbia delegation of PGA groups) gave a summary and there were short intro's to other w/g's including but not limited to:

  1. free love/triple oppression (fulfilling the 2nd hallmark beyond economic oppression)
  2. The situation in the Balkans
  3. labour relations
  4. migration
  5. repression/terrorism
  6. proposals for action: upcoming 'big' events/appointments (Genoa, Gothenburg, Salzburg, Barcelona.); eu currency blockades

Other points incl: how to go beyond 'summit-hopping' (such as involving 'locals' more in such events). That Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and other latin american regions have similar situations - in earlier stages perhaps - as Columbia and should be included in any 'Plan Columbia' discussions. Fundraising: a US based group has set-up a organisation to try and raise money for PGA type activities more easily and asked for participation. The context of G8 events in Italy: the production and 'battle of meanings' linked to the 'ghost' of the migrant, 'citizen strike' and commonalising the social centre struggles. The Gothenburg summit in Sweden: 'white overalls' and many others organising for this summit. It was felt there was a real opportunity to stop this summit as there was to be possibly less state mobilisation than on previous 'days of action'. A point about the psychological destruction of capitalism and need to concentrate on the real psychical relations between us.

A number of 'working group proposals' (22!) had also been collected from previous email list presentations. The proposal was that these and the others were merged where possible, numbered and that we spread around the room joining the numbered smaller group discussion we were interested in. Many proposed discussion numbers didn't seem to be happening, some involved up to 90 people, others fewer than a dozen. All were encouraged to have a participant take notes for reporting back the following day and contributing to any future report of the European PGA meeting..

(It was also explained that there was to be a large social centre event in the evening, involving extremely loud techno and a few thousand friends. We were free to attend but told it might disturb our sleep a bit!)


We began with an assembly plenary (a late start -around 12noon due to the previous nights party). An early announcement was that sexual and other harassment of meeting participants had taken place in the sleeping quarters last night and it was suggested that 'protection' should be better organised, that we should be able to feel safe when we attend PGA meetings. This, it was agreed, was a matter for us all as we are all organisers here not just Ya Basta. If you see that something needs doing please help to do it. A short history of the Leoncavello social centre was given to explain the organising of events like the previous nights party and a request for more info on the harassment's.

Then followed report-backs from some of the working group discussions. Many of the w/g's, such as 'GDA's/global -local' and Cochabamba (next global PGA conference), had decided to continue their discussions today and to give a fuller account in the final assembly, others had reached no conclusions or had not taken notes to report, still others had returned with firm proposals for the future. These included:

Communications w/g: while there were difficulties due to the older processes of PGA and newer ideas three main proposals were presented

  1. for an internal communications group procedure
  2. a technical strategy involving a variety of equipment (radio use for translation/other; video, net, post)
  3. for access: towards the decentralisation of information. Appointments w/g: (Genoa, Gothenburg, Salzburg, Barcelona, etc): there was a firm desire to link more clearly the various upcoming mobilisations across Europe, deciding on common themes and practises (discussion would continue in this w/g). A 'Carnival Caravan' from the UK was being planned that would attempt to travel between some appointments, perhaps a good linking journey that could inspire other caravans.

Repression w/g: Many regions are seeing new 'anti-terrorism' laws specifically including direct action activities. The w/g proposed a number of ways to address and combat this repression incl. producing information showing the legislative links between states in europe and building a database of radical opposition incl. lawyers and action groups.

There were many other w/g reports and proposals (on the balkans, agriculture, privatisation, oppression, violence/action ) which I don't have notes for but which will hopefully be written up and added to this account later.

After a break we restarted with an intro to the Cochabamba PGA conference process from an rts speaker and an intro to convenor-ing from a Ya Basta speaker, as key items to be addressed today. This lead to a wider discussion on the idea of quotas for participation in Cochabamba (30% 'north' - incl. america, australia etc. - 70% 'south' - incl. eastern europe: as decided in the Prague convenors meeting) as well as the need to address other imbalances such as gender and the balance between north american numbers and western european ones. Various participants suggested we also need: to clarify what we hope to achieve in Cochabamba as there are often many meeting with no conclusions. Be sensitive to problems of 'humanitarian tourism' and 'intellectual colonialism'. Help as much as possible in our groups to organise and support the Bolivian hosts. Beware of 'colonial guilt' and the usual financial approach of 'northern' groups. The idea of observers was also raised (others beyond the quota's who could attend but not speak or decide in main assemblies) which seemed controversial for some. For many present the discussion about numbers going etc had gone on too long and it was decided to finish the discussion on Cochabamba at the final plenary so as to allow w/g discussions time to continue now.

All groups/collectives interested in taking on the convenor role for w.europe region were asked to ensure some participation in the w/g dedicated to it and the Cochabamba conference; to begin the process not necessarily to decide now. (unfortunately it seemed that many participants had already gone for lunch so maybe didn't hear the request!)

The afternoon continued with the various working group discussions before the final assembly/plenary. (due to a late morning start and general overrunning the final plenary was very late beginning, meaning not only were many of us a bit drunk (or trying to get food) but many had already left the meetings to return home and many more had to leave throughout what became a looong discussion until the early hours of Monday morning!)

After a hesitant start, there was a strong and focused proposal for a better discussion on gender, especially following the revelations of a number of women being harassed. It became clear that other harassment's had taken place the previous night (including the similar harassment of a man) and that there was a need to deal with this 'issue' now; that it was too important and central to leave to a working group. A number of ideas to integrate the 'issue' of gender into all PGA activities were proposed such as all PGA conferences having mandatory intro's to gender issues in beginning plenaries as well as always having working groups on gender in every meeting. Others stressed that how we relate to each other more generally (friendliness etc) was also important. It became clear that in previous PGA meetings sexual harassment had also occurred - that it could not be seen simply as a consequence of the Leoncavello party; and it was suggested that gender had been marginalised in PGA documents like the manifesto. To continue the discussion - as well as on the various PGA-lists - the group who had met earlier to decide to raise the 'issue' will set up a separate list to discuss further and propose to the wider network ways of making intrinsic to PGA processes balanced gender relations.

The Cochabamba conference and convenor discussion was next. Two groups/networks had expressed interest in taking on the role of convenor:
Eurodusnie an anarchist collective from the Netherlands and Movement for Global Resistance (MRG) a direct action umbrella network based in Madrid and Catalonina (Spain).
The discussion was concluded with a suggestion that there was no need to decide immediately (the new convenor begins from the Cochabamba conference in Bolivia, September 20001), that the groups may need further consultation with their local 'assemblies' before committing to the task and that the two groups may wish to consult also with each other and decide between themselves. It was hand-wavingly agreed that any group offering to take on such a difficult job was to be thanked. After some time discussing the problems of trying to include observers beyond the '30%' number (the problem of still having too many numbers may still give decision-making advantages and '30% speakers' rotating raises the problem of a lack of continuity) as well as how to decide on the participants generally, it was agreed to again pick up this Cochabamba discussion at the end to allow now the final reports from other groups. These included the labour relation w/g who presented a list of common 'thoughts', a report from GDA's/local-global w/g (with suggestions for WTO in Quatar etc) and from the upcoming appointments w/g (suggestion for common theme of 'global citizen rights' misheard as global citizen riots - which got a laugh at least!). The various w/g had proposals and recommendations (as well as statements) for the PGA network which hopefully will be fully written up and circulated later.

Round midnight and into early hours of Monday morning the final final discussion about participation in the Cochabamba conference was had with perhaps 50 people left. This revolved again around numbers going and the observer status idea!, with suspicions being voiced that observer status and rotation of speakers was simply to enable the 'support group' people to go and speak, not to deal with over-application from groups and movements. After continued discussion, and hopes expressed for trust and confidence in both the present convenors and any of the 'support group' who attend the meetings, there were no further objections, and the general approach to the Bolivian global PGA Conference was re-affirmed. That is: suggesting to the other convenors and the Bolivian hosts an 'observer status' for extra participants from 'the north' - as well as 'the south'; and a possible rotation of speakers from the western european block.

The assembly ended with a thanks to Ya Basta for hosting the european PGA meeting and lastly - a bloody great cheer!

March 30th, 2001

Additionally : The day before the 'official' start included two meetings for those energetic enough to arrive early 1) evaluation of Colombian companeros tour (which in fact continued through the euro-meeting in various ways) and 2) pre-preparation for the following days meetings (which since it took place after midnight, should have reminded us to get some sleep!). That morning also included a solidarity demonstration outside the special courts being used to put on trail Leoncavello activists for being 'organisers' of the social centre (the participation of those 'internationals' already arrived had of course been decided the night before in a late night meeting!).