• Towards the Paris Assembly

  • Francesco Russo | 09 Nov 10 | Posted under: Social Forums , Transformative Strategies

    Assessments and Proposals

    The Sixth European Social Forum, held in Istanbul, has confirmed that the ESF is the only supranational public space, where many subjects – social, unionists, NGOs, associations and single representatives of political forces – can meet in order to have a dialogue and discuss the most important international and European issues, and where it is possible to organise campaigns through the use of the networks.

    At the same time, the difficulties of arriving at a common agenda in order to face the most important problems caused by the policies of the governments and of the social and economic elites are self-evident. The latter attempt to resolve the financial and economic crisis by way of relaunching global capitalism through measures which have a very damaging impact on society, in particular on the working classes, youth, and immigrants. In fact, wages, pensions, the permanent casualisation of work and the cutting of social services are the immediate effects of “sound” public budgets and the pressure of global competitiveness; at the same time “deficit-spending” policy has been deployed to bail out the banks and the financial institutions.

    Judith Dellheim described the situation in these terms: “today we are confronted with the effects of crises on the conditions of human life – from financial to economic crises, long-term structural crises as well as food, environmental and energy crises of the global crisis of reproduction. The rulers of our society and of the world are processing these crises in a way that deepens global and social divisions and comes nowhere near addressing ecological exigencies and often even contradicts them. Above all, it is dominion over the global South that is to be deepened and the European East that is to be pacified and controlled at a discriminatory social minimum level”.

    The premises of the crisis have been “the frightened worker” and “the indebted consumer”, as the Italian economist Riccardo Bellofiore wrote. Now, the worker is even more frightened and the consumer is becoming poorer, because public money is utilised by the governments to support the banks and the financial system. Budget policy helps the enterprises and aims at safeguarding the “balance-sheets” of the banks, while public services are being reduced. In the firms and on the labour market, workers are under pressure to make new sacrifices, in order to increase their competitiveness on the global market, and are pitted against each other – the dilemma of the Fiat workers in Pomigliano is emblematic of this.

    Therefore, we should struggle against these governmental and entrepreneurial policies in order to change the composition and goals of the budget and to oppose the wage cuts and the worsening of working conditions.

    Another budget is possible in order to face the ecological and social crisis (Elisabeth Gauthier). Commons (climate, water, energy, earth), people revenues (wages, basic income, pensions) and social rights are the centre of a possible alternative agenda, which should also aim at public ownership of the banks and democratic control of the BCE.

    Up to now we have not been able to set and implement our agenda. We are not able to articulate campaigns and struggles in order to challenge capitalist and government policies. Moreover, in the recent ESF we were not able to put out a common agenda, and the different assemblies were in no condition to elaborate a common strategy. In fact, the leap from “words to action” has not been made at a European level. The networks suffer from “word-disease”, in that we meet in order to organise other meetings to then organise other meetings. It is not by chance that the only appointment fixed in Istanbul was September 29 (and the days surrounding that day), organised by the ETUC – and not discussed inside the ESF process.

    The network “Charter of Another Europe” is an ESF network, which was very useful when we confronted the Constitutional Treaty and supported the campaign against the governments signing the Treaty. The Charter of Principles was a paper that synthesised some important common values around which it would have been possible to organise campaigns – peace and peoples’ rights, citizenship by residence, worker and social rights, commons, individual and collective rights to build a European constitutional democracy; however, the Charter network has not been able to articulate these general issues as specific proposals, around which we could have built “reinforced coalitions”.

    Now, in my opinion, is the time to experiment with the building of these “reinforced coalitions” to set and pursue the altermondialiste agenda by specifying programmes, timetables and forces (organised in coalitions) which can realise them.


    The Charter network, in my opinion, can promote some of these programmes, and specifically:

    1. European citizenship by residence, which implies civil, social and political rights for all (native and non-native people);

    2. Worker and social rights (to fight social dumping and to try and increase wages all over Europe; to establish union democracy so that workers can decide on labour agreements; to institute basic income in order to fight casualisation; to grant health, education and pensions for all…);

    3. Social management of the commons (climate, water, energy, agriculture and territory management), as the axis of the new sustainable economy and of the new public democracy;

    4. Public ownership of the banks and of the BCE so as to provide for their democratic control 

    5. A European public budget to support the building of a socially just and ecologically sustainable society.

    I think it is possible to discuss and develop common programmes in the ESF, as a European public space, and to organise different coalitions to implement them.


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