pga encuentros | g8 2005 | archives | |

Sunday 3rd of July, 12-2 pm

University of Edinburgh
Student Union Tibiot Building
Bristo Square
Edinburgh EH1

minutes (1st part)

A new start for the phoenix?
Pre-Conference PGA meeting in Edinburgh on July 3rd

Global conference and a new start for PGA?


[A little while ago some of us started exchanging reflexions about the crisis of the PGA process. Since, there has a new (wider) call for the conference from Asia. Here are some ideas of how the PGA phoenix could rise once again from its ashes! ]

Despite the disorganisation and the dispersion of the PGA network, it is the only radical, anticapitalist network proposing action on a global level. As such, it is a precious tool, that we cannot let fall apart (especially now, when many organisations have realised the limitations of the Social Forum process).


In Asia, PGA is stronger than ever. They have taken the initiative of organising a conference to once again organise global action against WTO. Because, for the peasants of the world (that is most of humanity) this is literally a question of life or death. And, although it isn't so visible, the movement has scored significant victories. WTO and other free trade agreements, such as ALCA, are stalled or moving much, much slower than planned. In fact, WTO is so afraid of summit mobilisations that it is trying to take as many decisions as possible before, in Geneva. Opposition (including more institutional actors) has gradually radicalised. From talking about market access for southern farmers, they have moved to taking agriculture out of WTO, food sovereignty and often questionning WTO and free trade as such. We are gradually winning the argument. This war is not yet over, nor lost. And it must not be! So that is the first good reason for the conference. There are many (justified) calls for global actions, but hitting WTO again, now, as hard as possible, would be really strategic.


But maybe its also time to look further ahead. When PGA first proposed global actions or declared itself anticapitalist, it was way out in front, and that galvanised a huge energy. Now maybe its time to take a new step: to start discussing the forms and strategies for a radical transformation of society. There is a very large part of the movement — and of the population in general — that realises, more or less clearly, that this is the only hope, the only real solution. But (apart from some old fashioned political parties, which haven't understood anything), the disasters of the 20^th century and the apparent omnipotence of State (anti?)terrorism still make it difficult to use the word « revolution » again. The term needs to be reclaimed and redefined: not as a predefined process or point of arrival, but more as a set of values - a compass that indicates a direction. And as a variety of parallel, decentralised, grassroots processes constantly redefining themselves and nurturing each other through international networks. If we could collectively flesh out a vision of this kind, it could be a powerful means for mobilisation and social change.


This isn't an idle, theoretical, question. In South America, our friends in Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and Venezuela have all taken down (or put back in place!) their governments, often several times, in the last few years. They have extraordinarily interesting experiences to share concerning forms of popular power from below, of its relation to state power. And of course, the subject is just as important in places where the movements are less powerful, since we always need to know how to relate to state power, parties, reform, defense of what has been gained in the past, etc.

There are no simple answers, but what is common to all power from below is that it is based on autonomy. For indigenous, peasants, squatters and others this means the control and organisation of spaces and territories. For non-territorial struggles and collectivities, such as migrants, feminists, precarious workers, etc., it can be a (re)construction or defense of communities through mutual support and solidarity. The challenge is to create meaningful forms of exchange and solidarity between such diverse forms of struggle. One thing they certainly have in common is to be constantly attacked by market relations and capitalist forms of domination. And again nothing is simple, since we simultaneously reproduce and question capitalist social relations every day. Which brings us to the question of alternatives.


Experiences of this kind are being tested in really every part of the world. Here again, it would be urgent to share, both at the level of political reflection (potential and pitfalls of alternatives) and of very concrete skill-sharing.

Unlike the (related) question of « horizontal » organisation, all these are questions and perspectives that are common to PGA worldover. The PGA hallmarks specify decentralisation and autonomy, but as caracteristics of the network, not of the organisations that compose it. Some of the most important of these (such as KRRS, which was the driving force to create PGA) have always been organisations with hierarchies and leaderships. This is certainly not only a cultural, historical or subjective option, but also conditioned by some objective constraints (like not all being on internet, for ex.). That said, there is room for respectful dialogue on these issues, since we DO all share a desire to move in that direction. Probably because we all share having had bad experiences with the State, parties, NGOs and other organisations that pretend to speak in the people's name and bring them solutions from above, whatever the problems and internal contradictions we (all) fall into. The organisations that happily assume the topdown rule of central committees dropped out of PGA very quickly.


This proposal is modest, seeing PGA simply as a unique political space that has from time to time galvanised energies worldwide, and which should therefor be kept open, as a potential for the future.

It is ambitious obviously because of its goals... but also because PGA's structures (convenors, support group, communication tools) have actually never functioned as they were supposed to. Can a network without a permanent secretariat or finances still play a significant role, with respect to well funded forums, NGO networks, etc. (not to mention the USA, WTO, etc.)? Perhaps. We have no proposals to make the convenors committee work better. We can all see the danger that people in networks tend to use them (« consume » them, in a sense), without contributing to sustain their minimal structures (700 people at the European conference, 20 next winter to organise things...). Well, if we really want self-organisation from below to reach out beyond local initiatives, if we are really convinced that we won't change our local realities all alone, then more of us must step forward NOW to help.

A couple of open questions:


First, these may be vital subjects to discuss, but how can they lead to action? Can one imagine a global day of action for revolutionary change, for example? (hi Mr. Bush!) Or raising that kind of question during an anti-WTO action? Can we invent other forms of common action apart from Global Days?


Second, it makes no sense opening such a huge discussion if it does't continue after the conference, and PGA has been as bad about ongoing discussion as it has been good for action. To take this seriously, we would need real commitments from organisations and concrete persons, to feed a regular PGA webjournal, as a minimum. There are also certainly many websites of political reflexion, ressources for skill-sharing, etc., that exist already. Just making these links available to the whole network would already be a valuable contribution.

We must also explore other - more in depth - ways of sharing. In particular, longer « caravans », visits and exchanges. Actually, given the fact that the convenors committee has very rarely done its job, this kind of exchange has always been vital to the network. However, it should be organised. Otherwise, spontaneously, it remains mostly a privilege of northerners.


So... who is up for it?

We proposed that this discussion be continued on a forum on the web page and on the <> list, which was also proposed by the asian convenors in their call. However, it seems that caravan is very full of spam and that <> would be better...

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