Luciano Muhlbauer invites you to join thousands of others at the European Social Forum in Florence later this year.
After two decades of neoliberal dominance all kinds of divisions are emerging. The rise of the far right, and of racist and xenophobic movements in general, represents the political face of a process of capitalist modernisation based on the defeat of earlier waves of class struggle as well as changes in the social composition of the working class.
The European Union, in full agreement with the organisations of international capital (the G8, the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank), is encouraging and favouring increased deregulation and privatisation, new regressive schemes of taxation, the dismantling of the welfare state and increasing flexibility of labour. You just need to look at the agendas of recent European summits, such as the one held in Barcelona in mid-March, where it was decided to liberalise the entire continent's gas and electricity industries by 2004, as well as insisting that trade unions present their own proposals of 'wage moderation' and 'flexible work organisation' by the end of this year.
The great majority of EU citizens are still unaware of all this. This is because the EU has now reproduced the lack of transparency and distance from popular participation which is typical of these supranational organisations. Not only does the EU accept permanent wars as normal, but its own national governments have also restructured their own armed forces in an offensive fashion, and have redefined their own military strategies into an interventionist mode. Furthermore, the increase in social inequality, the rise in social exclusion, the rise of job insecurity and low paid work, the massive roll-back of basic democratic rights, and the emergence of new forms of social and political authoritarianism are all signs of a process which is far from being neutral and natural--it is the result of violent class interests.
Despite all this, in recent years new possibilities have emerged with the growth of new social movements, from Brazil to Mexico, from Europe to the US. Just look at the mobilisations in Amsterdam in 1997, Seattle in 1999, passing through to those in Cologne, Prague, Nice, Gothenburg, Genoa and Brussels up to the amazing demonstration in Barcelona just three months ago. There have also been the huge demonstrations against the war after 11 September, particularly in Britain and Italy.
All these movements and mobilisations show us that something is changing, a door is opening, a new generation is emerging onto the political stage, and it is coming in from the left, from below, and carrying with it a modern critique of capitalism.
Social conflict is concretely posing for us today the possibility of building subjective antagonism--strategies and goals which emerge from a different point of view. That very phrase 'Another world is possible,' was launched at Porto Alegre a year ago where there was a joint understanding that a global and internationalist movement was emerging.
But we need to go even further. This other point of view must be built concretely on a local scale. This is the meaning behind the decision at the second World Social Forum in Porto Alegre to organise continental forums.
The European Social Forum, which will be held from 7 to 10 November in the medieval Fortezza da Basso in the heart of Florence, is a fantastic opportunity for social movements and other forces to communicate with each other and to bring to life the three principles which are the common ground of the great majority of the anti-capitalist movement--no to neoliberalism, no to war, and no to racism. The proposed series of meetings will embody three main themes: neoliberalism and globalisation; war and militarism; democracy and citizenship.
The ESF is more than just an event or a kind of political conference. Firstly, it is a process which has already begun and which must continue after Florence--above all the ESF is part of the global process of the World Social Forum. Secondly, it is a process open to all those who support the 'call of the social movements' which emerged from Porto Alegre. Thirdly, it should have at its heart social movements and social subjects. And lastly, it must not limit itself to movements within the European Union, and therefore must involve people from eastern Europe, North Africa and the Near East, stressing not only the plight of the Palestinians but also that of the Kurds, whose destiny the EU seems to want to cynically place in the hands of the bloodthirsty Turkish regime.
The ESF is part of a bigger process which should start from below, from social movements. This is why it must be open and inclusive, able to offer a public meeting place for all those who are resisting and fighting, and want to change the world. The rest is up to us, to meet the challenge and bring together movements and 'agents of change' to launch a new wave of mobilisations able to map out social and political alternatives--the other Europe which is possible.