Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Call for Autonomous Spaces During the European Social Forum in London, 14-17th October 2004.

Autonomous Spaces are a loose network of individuals, groups, organisations and grass roots communities and who act, think and struggle for another world beyond capitalism.

They are calling to those in the UK, the rest of Europe and those further afield to participate in building alternative autonomous spaces around the European Social Forum, which will be held in London during October (14-17th) 2004.

What they are trying to do is to create open spaces for networking, exchanges, celebration, thinking, and action. They believe their ways of organising and acting should reflect their political visions, and as such are united in standing for grassroots self-organisation, horizontality, for diversity and inclusion, for direct democracy, collective decision making based upon consensus, and against the false consensus in which power is used to silence others.

They do not have, nor represent, one single unified position on the ESF. They are however, asserting that the ESF UK organising process is un-transparent, non-participatory, and exclusionary. It is their position that the UK ESF organising process has been controlled by the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Action, and through the central involvement of Mayor Ken Livingstone's Greater London Authority, in ways which are both hierarchical and authoritarian. Because the organising process and methodology both in the UK and at the European level has not reflected the values and charters which the ESF aspires to, the ESF process is therefore, they claim, politically bankrupt. However, they wish to state clearly that they recognise, value and support the energy, diversity, and experiences of those attending the ESF.

"It is also important to say that some of us have tried to work inside the ESF process, fighting to "democritise" the ESF, and as such, much of our criticism is borne from experience and cannot be dismissed. Some of us believe that it is possible to rebuild the ESF to make it closer to the ideals it claims, and to build a truly participative process, others - after their experiences - believe this is simply not possible. Some of us wish to go further and say that the entire basis of the ESF is fundamentally illegitimate, that it only represents a space for the co-option of struggles, and that as such, it should be opposed. While others are aware of the problems within the ESF process but don't wish to be defined by them and are simply interested in working with organisational processes that are more authentic under the statement "another world is possible". We all however are united in our diversity and in our desire to act together in ways that respect these differences."

Autonomous Spaces issues an invitation ...

Following an international autonomous spaces meeting in Berlin in June, where 70 individuals from 45 groups and networks came together, discussions and planning has continued in London. There are now several self organised and autonomous spaces under construction - they range from legally hired venues to squatted social centres. An alternative programme of events will cover areas such as precarious work(ers), asylum and migrant issues, community organising, anti-war campaigns, environment, gender issues, alternative media, and technologies of control - from copyright to biometric ID cards, the the G8 - which comes to the UK next year in 2005, and more... There will be film screenings, alternative media centres, street theatre, parties, creative actions and protests ... We invite you to participate in the autonomous spaces, to help shape them, to organise workshops, discussions, creative interventions, and practical alternatives.

To get involved contact:

Background Links: Unofficial "open" esf website:
(see "Parallel Projects" Official ESF website:

Background to the call a Call for Autonomous Spaces During the ESF in London, 14-17th October 2004.

"We write this background note to all the networks and communities in struggle in the UK, Europe and beyond so as to clarify who, the authors of this call, are and what we stand for. Among us there are many positions, many visions, many different political languages and backgrounds that often seem odd to each other. We sat together for several hours and it became clear to us that it was difficult to draw together a document summarising our "position" or "line" on the ESF, or indeed, on how to change the world.
"Among us, we discovered there were at least three different approaches to the ESF. There are those for whom "another ESF is possible". These are those who in the last few months have fought inside the ESF process and for whom the often documented power games of the "verticals" (Socialist Worker Party, Socialist Action, several trade unions officials and the representatives of London's government, the GLA) represents the hijacking of the democratic and participatory principles of the Social Forum. There are those who instead stand in opposition to the ESF because they believe it only represents a space of cooperation of struggles, a space that does not promote the overcoming of capitalism but only its preservation with perhaps a "human face". There are finally those who prefer to define themselves by what they do, and are not interested in identifying themselves in relation to ESF.
"Hierarchical organisations would have hidden these differences for the sake of their public appearance, and would have manoeuvred minorities and find ways to force them to accept a common line. We are different, because we embrace diversity, we celebrate it, and we regard it as the source of our strength and creativity. Therefore, we are not afraid to be transparent. We have discovered that our common ground is not a "line", is not a means to silence the other. Our common ground is a mode of relating to each other, a mode of producing, of making decisions, and making things happen, that is grounded on the dignity and respect for all. However odd our political outlook seemed to each other, however "strange" the language we used, however "right" or "wrong" the arguments used among us appeared, we came to realise that in our practices we are all for grassroots self-organisation and not for top-down management, we are for horizontality and inclusion, not for hierarchy and exclusion, we are for collective decision making based on consensus that build on all our diverse powers, and not for voting or the false consensus in which power is used to silence others. Unlike the verticals within the ESF, we all think that another world beyond capitalism is possible only to the extent we practise what we preach, and the end of our struggles must correspond to the organisational means we choose to bring it about."