'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, October 15, 2004

The ESF, Etc. 

The European Social Forum opens this weekend in London. I kind of wish I was there, but on the other hand each time one of these events happens lately, not just the ESF but the World Social Forum itself, I hear a rising voice of criticism that the organizations aren't democratic enough. Here's this from an IPS article about this weekends' forum, for example:

But the forum has been widely criticised by grassroots activists and civil society organisations. "Many British non-governmental organisations are keen to get involved in the ESF but have found it difficult to do so because of the lack of transparency and openness in the UK process," a coalition of British trade unions and environmental associations wrote in a letter to the organisers, which include the Greater London Authority which runs a limited city government.

[ ... ]

The cost of participation is high at 30 pounds (54 dollars) a ticket, with concessions for students and the unemployed, who will pay 20 pounds (36 dollars). The organizers say the charge is to ensure independence from entities foreign to the forum's values.

But those who believe that "another ESF is possible", as they wrote in a free paper 'Autonomous Spaces' to be distributed at the official ESF, have organised several events of their own.

They take different positions. Some believe that the ESF process must be "democratized", others do not recognize the ESF as legitimate, still others do not find their issues represented in the official programme.

My gut instinct is to ignore such criticisms and continue to view the creation of these institutions as one of the most obviously positive developments in the domain of hard left organizing that has occurred in years. My opinion is that such criticisms as the above are the result of naive notions of the difficulty and expense required to organize and execute international conferences of this scale, but I'm curious to hear others' thoughts on the matter.

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