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Open letter from 'DeriveApprodi' to the European movements

category national | miscellaneous | news report author Sunday July 28, 2002 18:58author by inkauthor email derive.approdi at libero dot it Report this post to the editors


At the beginning of November, as decided during the Porto Alegre meeting, the "European Social Forum" will convene in Florence. That Italy hosts the meeting is particularly significant, since it is here that the impetus, that began during the anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle in November 1999, has resounded more strongly than in any other European country. The profile of the anti-capitalist movement, its modes of organisation and expression have been entirely redefined. The Genoa protests of July 2001 have not only constituted the highest point of the "global movement" in quantitative terms. They also have had concrete consequences for the history of Italian politics. Despite the reverberation of September 11th, a new movement has formed that has expressed itself at both the national and the local level, through campaigns against war, against the repression of social movements and for the rights of migrants. This has frequently resulted in the forging of new relationships with diverse political actors, such as the trade unions at the forefront of the struggle for the defence of workers’ rights, currently coming under attack from a right-wing government.

In more general term, a process of alliance-building is under way in Italy following the experience of the Genoa Social Forum, which organised the protests against the 2001 G8 summit. This process, based on an alliance of highly heterogeneous elements, has the objective of creating an Italian Social Forum. To be clear: this is neither a linear process nor a uniquely positive one. Ambiguities, personal rivalries and short-sightedness are ever-present factors. Indeed, the debate regarding the actual contents of such a movement are often slow-moving. In particular, with regards to the question of work in the most general sense of the word, the movement has demonstrated an alarming simplicity in its political proposals which, in contrast to the rebirth of the pro-action and radicalism of the trade unions, risks bringing the process to a standstill.

Nevertheless it is important to note that the process of constructing both an Italian Social Forum and the local Social Forums which began after Genoa, has involved the historically radical movement (represented on the one hand by civil disobedience, the former "tute bianche", and on the other hand, by COBAS and the other Social Forums which form part of the Network for Global Rights). These movements have emerged from a definite position of marginality. But they now easily enter into confrontation with social and political movements with very different histories and political cultures; from non-profit organisations to some left-wing parties (in particular Rifondazione Comunista and the Green Party, but also a part of the Democratic Left), and from local administrations to trade union branches.

Those present at Porto Alegre recognised the true peculiarity of the Italian situation. It was sufficient to look at the way in which the Italian delegation was composed. Even more importantly, Genoa represented an important moment of politicisation for a new generation. In parallel, many men and women who stayed away from politics during the two decades that followed the repression of the movements of the 1970s discovered new reasons for commitment and activism in the "global movement". Thousands of activists, who often did not belong to a specific political party, who resisted the logic of representation and were suspicious of both the ‘structured’ components of the antagonistic movement and the ‘moderatism’ of the more ‘institutional’ elements, have, in the past few months, organised initiatives of various dimensions representing the richness of the Italian arena.

The "European Social Forum" should not become a place for large internationally-structured organisations (like Attac or the trade unions) nor should it represent a simple and mechanical reproduction of the ‘Porto Alegre spirit’. In our view, the European Social Forum should be an open opportunity to meet, for exchange and collective development for all those in Europe who are concretely working to build ‘a new possible world’. We believe that there is no predefined ‘European model’ to defend (the Rhine capitalism ‘moderated’ by the Welfare State). Rather, new forms must be invented for the co-existence of the men and women who live in this continental space. Above all, a new social space and a new productive geography, materially shaped by the ‘great transformation’ witnessed by the last two decades, must be confronted conflictually and new forms and subjects sought. Moreover, the Europe that we are interested in obviously cannot conform to the institutional borders of the European Union. We side unyieldingly with migrants - the women and men who cross these borders daily and risk their lives. We seek to build forms of subversive cooperation among movements and sections of social labor that those same borders, to the East as well as to the South, would seek to divide in the name of dominance and exploitation.

We are thus interested in a Europe that will necessary be one of movements. We may no longer postpone the building of channels of stable political communication at the European level. We believe that the November meeting should be used to this end. For this reason we ask everyone, even those suspicious of the excessively ‘institutional’ character that this meeting might take, to come to Florence. But we would like to go even further. The magazine, DeriveApprodi, is more than ten years old. It represents an important ‘meeting place’ for a part of the political culture of the movements of the 1960s and 1970s (in particular those in the legacy of revolutionary labourism) and those, of the two following decades, that refused to accept the restoration of capitalism as unavoidable. Together with other magazines (from Luogo comune to Altreragioni, from Futuro anteriore to Posse), DeriveApprodi is a technical and political laboratory in which the fundamental features of a new form of society and productive regime, shaped by the crisis of Fordism, have been defined. Topics which the magazine has covered in the past include the transformation of work and new migration, new techniques of social control, the transformation of the Constitution and of citizenship and forms of abstention and disobedience. All this without ever adhering to any ‘organisational’ formula, but instead giving space to the most original theoretical and political hypotheses formulated in Italy in recent years.

Genoa also represented a fundamental cut-off point for the magazine: the broad discussion which followed the July events produced, among other things, a document (only partially expressing the positions of the magazine) that we attach to this letter in Italian, French and German. We would like to inaugurate a new series of DeriveApprodi on the basis of two central points: the continuing vitality of the "global movement" and the pressing need to overcome the narrow, provincially Italian perspective which up until now has characterised much of the magazine’s contents. To these ends, we would like to begin by proposing an ambitious aim: using the "European Social Forum" as a point of departure, we intend to carry out an inquiry into the status of the movement in Europe. For this we ask for your co-operation.

It is not coincidentally that we use the term inquiry, in reference to a theoretical and political methodology certainly among the most important legacies of the labourist tradition from which most of us come. Inquiry is an open cognitive process that produces transformation. While basing itself on a few hypotheses, it continuously verifies and takes issue with them. Moreover, the proposed inquiry presupposes a continuous exchange of ideas and experiences among all those involved in various ways. For this reason, we are not simply asking you to tell us what you think about the world (or, more modestly, about Europe), but to be the protagonists of the analysis and of your surrounding reality yourselves. You should therefore put aside, even if only for a moment, all ‘certainties’, in the aim perhaps of discovering a new potential for transforming the present.

We would like to ask you for a written contribution of between 30,000 and 40,000 characters, on the status of the movement in the environment in which you are based. This account should retain a balance between telling the story of the movement’s experiences and analysing them theoretically. You are obviously free to choose the relevant setting (a city, the whole country, a specific segment of political activity, etc.), starting from the specificity of your own experience. In light of the fact that the magazine must be ready by the beginning of November, in order to be distributed at the European Forum, and that the materials must be translated, we ask you to submit the contribution by September 10. However if possible, please send us the rough draft as soon as you can in order to allow time for discussion.

In this project so far we have engaged several types of movements from Germany, France, Spain, Holland, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Finland. We are also active in promoting relations with Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. We are obviously open to any suggestion that may be useful in broadening the ‘scope’ of the inquiry. The attached document provides a tentative first list of the issues that we believe should be addressed. Please let us know if you find it useful to refer to this list, even if only in order to criticise it.

The following is a random and non-exhaustive list of some of the problems that we believe it is important to address. It goes without saying that even at this point, criticism and suggestions are more than welcome. One preliminary observation must however be made: in many of the questions, the term ‘movement’ (or ‘antagonistic movement’) has been used to indicate the common background against which various political activities and initiatives take place. It is possible that this term, which in Italy has its roots in the history of the struggles of the 1970s, may not seem immediately clear elsewhere: in Germany for example, the more precise translation would probably be Linke, and not Bewegung. Whether or not this is a shared reference is one of the issues which we propose to verify with the suggested inquiry. We also propose to ascertain the relations of continuity and discontinuity of the present movement with previous periods of social and political struggles across the various situations.

In the situation in which you are working, is it possible to indicate a moment of radical change, an incident of social uprising, a campaign or a single struggle that has positively transformed the movement in recent years? Or, if your network was founded recently, what was the struggle or campaign that brought it about?

What consequences did the events of the global movement, starting in Seattle in November 1999, have for your movement? How is the relationship between the specific local (or ‘national’) and ‘global’ dimension perceived? In this respect, is there a difference with regard to the traditional theories and practices of internationalist solidarity?

What is the relationship with the European dimension? What is the general opinion within the movement, or in your environment of reference, of the current process of European unification? In particular, what is the opinion of the ‘European social model’ and of the ‘borders of Europe’? Even more specifically, do local campaigns, for example on issues such as GMOs or migration, perceive European institutions as their counterparts?

In the last years, what have been the most significant and original social struggles?

How have the modes of activism changed over time? What are the fundamental reasons that influence activists to take political action? What is the relationship between activism, work and ‘life’?

What are the principal means of communication employed by the movement? What is the relationship between the communication network (e.g. Indymedia) and the organisational structures of the movement?

What is the relationship between the organisation of a single struggle or campaign and more complex organisational processes? How is the relationship with the organisation perceived?

What are the qualifying objectives of the movement? Are platforms of demands developed, or is the Porto Alegre "charter of rights" model followed?

What is the relationship between individual groups, the spaces of the ‘antagonistic movement’ and other forms of ‘social action’ and involvement?

How has the relationship with the ‘institutions’, in the most general sense including also political parties and trade unions, developed?Who are the movement’s ‘counterparts’? In particular, what is the relationship to local authorities and national government? Is there a strong tendency, on the left in general, to see national government (or the European Union) as the fundamental political factor in the resistance to ‘neo-liberal globalisation’What are the relationships between the different components of the ‘antagonistic movement’ like - beginning from the situation in which you are working - at the national and the European level?

In the situation in which you are working, how do you evaluate the growth of the far-right (both in terms of mass culture and as organised political movements)? How do you structure your opposition?

In sum (and this is in our view a fundamental question), what is the movement’s relationship with labour? How are the changes in the modes of capitalist production, of the 1980s and 1990s, viewed? What were the main struggles of recent years as regards these changes? In what manner may the social component of the movement be perceived as an expression of the new forms of the means of capitalist production ?

Obviously, these are only some of the questions, purposely formulated in a very general manner, to which we would like to give an answer by means the proposed inquiry. It is important to say that our work should not be seen as a cause for celebration. We are convinced that a new season has dawned for the movements in Europe. However, we also believe that, precisely for this reason, our analysis must pitilessly detect and expose the limits that today are evident in the political composition of the movement. Our intention is to collect diverse data that has in common only the recognition of the relevance of the questions put forward. Besides the written contribution, we would ask you to send us any type of material (articles, documents, flyers) which you consider important for the subjects of the inquiry: part of this material may indeed be published in the magazine, while others may be circulated through the network.

During the days of the European Social Forum it would be important to meet in Florence and collectively discuss the results of the work. We are also considering enclosing with the magazine (which will be published in Italian), a shorter publication in English which shall feature summaries of all the contributions received.

Related Link: http://www.deriveapprodi.org/edit-engl.htm
author by h.publication date Sun Jul 28, 2002 20:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

... other than the Globalise Resistance roadshow, will there be any collective Irish participation in the European Social forum?

author by bpublication date Tue Jul 30, 2002 12:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Are there people intending to go to ESF without being part of the GR?delegation?

If so, then are people up for organising or should we all just show up as individuals?

Can this be tied in with Irish groups going to PGA in Lieden?

Before anyone asks, the reason I'm looking to be organised is because if I want to do some organising for it myself I might find time a few days after it's all over, which is slightly too late.

author by h.publication date Tue Jul 30, 2002 18:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What Irish groups are going to Leiden for the PGA meeting?

Speaking rights at the ESF at this stage appear to be allocated purely to those attached to large leftist groups and the NGO types.

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