• Democracy acquires new meaning at the European Social Forum

  • Par Patrick Coulon | 25 May 09
  • Significantly, the theme of democracy has emerged from the European Social Forum in Malmö renewed and broadened. If the analysis of the concept of reciprocal communication based on the experience of participatory democracy is currently assuming special importance, that is because the theme of economic democracy is beginning to appear.

    Thus, on the initiative of Espaces Marx and network Transform! a workshop was held on this topic.

    A few dozen participants exchanged views through the intervention of trade unionists, activists and elected representatives from Hungary, Germany, France, Argentina, India and Switzerland. Particularly memorable was the testimony of two trade unionists from the AXA, who conveyed their experiences, the extent of their commitment, the difficulty of the task for thosea working hard to bring democracy to their company and economy (the summary will report on this). The notable testimony of the Indian trade-unionist P.K. Murthy featured a stunning comparison of outsourcing industry in the high-tech field with outsourcing in textiles, two realities based on the same principle, but with different social, economic, even cultural, consequences for labour and the exploited.

    The workshop launched a long-term process of reflection (particularly welcome in these times of economic and financial crisis). We will work, among other things, on the concept of local and global economic democracy, changes in work and its organisation, the place of workers, their rights and opportunities to intervene. We will try to reflect on the connection between economic and institutional power, political intervention, the public sector as a vector, as a pillar of economic democracy, the cooperative sector, mutual funds and economic democracy, new rights for workers regarding a better monitoring and prevention of financialisation of capital, etc.

    The session devoted to participatory democracy evidenced the different approaches advocated by participants. The author of these lines argued the need – in the face of growing attacks on democracy occurring everywhere in the world – to not accept the status quo as a given. I called for a daring attempt at innovation through building on ongoing experiences in the social movements or on those of some elected representatives (including Communists). The philosophy of such a large project is based on the premise of effective and real sharing of power(s) and the right of all to exercise this power. Obviously, this implies a role for, and a renewed conception of, the political activity of the political parties. I emphasised the stimulus function of working to provide access to all the emancipating processes of the effective levers of power.