Report of European Peoples' Global Action Conference from UK participant

october 2002

"There is a hippy living in the parking lot. She made a worshipping place where she organises strange ceremonies. She was also present at the demonstration in Amsterdam where she tried to put little dots of mud on people's foreheads." (From the daily PGA conference newspaper, 2nd Sep 2002)

Oh yes - in late summer 2002 over four hundred European activists - from Ireland to Israel and Moscow to Milan - had gathered in the historic city of Leiden for the second European conference of the mighty, mighty network known as Peoples' Global Action (PGA).

During the middle ages the fanatical preacher John of Leiden had turned the city into an extreme Christian commune, burning private property and proclaiming God's Law. That episode ended with an invasion by Dutch troops and wholesale massacre of the inhabitants. The PGA conference made a different kind of history, despite the best efforts of some of the UK contingent (you know who you are).

Leiden is a cathedral city of around 140,000. Home to the elite University of Leiden and it's ultra right-wing student society "Minerva" and also to the EuroDusnie squatting collective, whose two social centres provided the venues for the conference. EuroDusnie are famous for their pieing actions - a flan in the face to ridicule the people in power. After one of their past targets (anti-immigration politician Pim Fortyun) was assassinated by a gay-hating Christian animal rights activist, their squats were attacked by gangs of fascists.

But from the 30th of August to the 5th of September the city was ours, as groups of eco/anarcho/peacenik/hippies wandered around the cobbled streets, eating ice cream and talking to each other about their projects back home.

And an inspiring set of projects they were! A run-down of the participants shows the diversity and breadth of activities; this is what PGA is all about - not an organisation that tries to build itself up, but rather a common space for people who are taking action to talk, share info and co-ordinate their struggles as much or as little as they like.

Background, from the PGA website (

"From the 23rd to the 26th of February of 1998, grassroots movements of all continents met in Geneva to launch a worldwide coordination network of resistance to the global market, a new alliance of struggle and solidarity called "Peoples' Global Action against 'free' trade and the World Trade Organisation" ("PGA"). That was the birth of this global tool for communication and coordination for all those who fight the destruction of humanity and the planet by capitalism and build local alternatives to globalisation. The defining documents of the PGA are its five hallmarks, its organisational principles and its Manifesto

The PGA hallmarks are a guide to what kind of activities fall inside PGA and what kind of groups can participate in PGA. For example, many right-wing groups are against "globalisation", yet PGA is not for them! The hallmarks are:

  1. A very clear rejection of capitalism, imperialism and feudalism; all trade agreements, institutions and governments that promote destructive globalisation;
  2. We reject all forms and systems of domination and discrimination including, but not limited to, patriarchy, racism and religious fundamentalism of all creeds. We embrace the full dignity of all human beings.
  3. A confrontational attitude, since we do not think that lobbying can have a major impact in such biased and undemocratic organisations, in which transnational capital is the only real policy-maker;
  4. A call to direct action and civil disobedience, support for social movements' struggles, advocating forms of resistance which maximize respect for life and oppressed peoples' rights, as well as the construction of local alternatives to global capitalism;
  5. An organisational philosophy based on decentralisation and autonomy.

There have been three Global PGA conferences - in Geneva, Switzerland (1998), in Bangalore, India (1999) and in Cochabamba, Bolivia (2001). One thing that tells us something about the impact of PGA are the Global Days of Action, from 1998 to 2001, that have been called by PGA.

This was the second European conference, the first being held in Milan in March 2000. The conference packs that EuroDusnie produced included a list of those groups that had signed up to be participants in the Leiden conference. There were

This is just a tantalising taster, of course, and the workshops that these groups put on were of an equally broad and interesting quality.

"What is a boy, what is a girl? said a sign found on the doors of both the men and women's showers at the campsite. "It's definitions are made up by society and it discriminates against people somewhere in between "Queer Up!" A special commission has now ordered to open a third lavatory, accessible for "in-betweens" only"According to another source, the use of toilet paper has taken on unsustainably high levels" (PGA conference newspaper, 3rd Sep)

Workshops covered areas such as:

Look, I didn't have time to go to everything, ok? This is just a list that I hope looks cool! And then, of course there were the strategy discussions, about sharing general ideas on things like "democratic decision making", and the feared "PGA process" meetings, about how to structure this monster network of ours? "Naomi Klein has returned from alien abduction! Apparently her return is connected with some witchcraft happening outside in the parking lot. Unfortunately for her lover, the Dutch Crown Prince, Klein has decided to spend the rest of her life in the transgender bathroom with an inhabitant of the planet Wrossjk." (PGA conference newspaper, 4th Sep)

Another interesting initiative discussed in Leiden was the "European Social Consulta"; a massive outreach project. Based on events like the Zapatista community consultations and the Barcelona Consulta it will spread out through different "promoter" groups that will recruit new groups and reach out into their local area. See or e-mail for more info.

The upcoming European Social Forum (ESF) in Florence was also discussed at the PGA conference. This huge anti-globalisation meeting follows on from the World Social Forum (WSF) of last year, in Brazil and inspires both hope and a large chunk of suspicion. The main groups involved in organising it are ATTAC, a liberal economic campaigning group, plus big NGOs, trade unions and even political parties! The main mobilisers for the ESF in the UK are the Socialist Workers' Party. All in all, a mixed bunch of people will turn up to the ESF, most of them sincere believers in a better world. Therefore in Leiden an "autonomous space at the ESF" was planned.

This PGA gathering produced some suggestions for how PGA should be organised. There is already a North American PGA network, which has "hubs" in various regions that act as contact points. The "PGA process" workshops eventually reached consensus on encouraging the setting up of similar contact points across Europe. These will distribute PGA publicity and help groups to co-ordinate their activities by holding regional PGA meetings.

What now?

PGA is an important network, globally, but also at a regional level. Through going to Leiden I met people from the UK and Ireland and heard about communities and struggles that I had never known existed, including many that are not part of the EF! network. There may be a PGA gathering for the UK happening near the start of next year. To find out more, join the UK Peoples' Global Action e-mail discussion list by e-mailing and saying that you want me to put you on the PGA-UK mailing list. Alternatively, join the European-wide discussion list by e-mailing

You can also find loads of info at

So far the only local PGA info points I know about are the Radical Dairy ( in Stoke Newington and LARC ( in Whitechapel, both in London. Look out for PGA meetings and events in your area. Hopefully PGA info-points will start sprouting across these islands soon!

"Do you sometimes, after a meeting, feel you have no idea of what was actually said? Are you looking forward to the final plenary with dread? The solution may be the PGA bingo!" Well in time before the meeting fill in the grid of squares from the attached list "Whenever a word in the grid is mentioned during the meeting but NOT BY YOU, you are allowed to cross out that word in your grid. Whenever you have a complete line either horizontally, vertically or diagonally, YOU ARE THE WINNER! "Suggested keywords:

(Conference Newspaper, 4th Sep 2002).

European PGA Conference Leiden | |