Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Re: The European Social Forum: Sovereign and Multitude
Brian Holmes on Tue, 22 Oct 2002 17:43:33 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Re: The European Social Forum: Sovereign and Multitude

Jamie King writes about the alliance-building process on the Italian
political scene, between the counterglobalist movements, the splinter
trade unions, the progressive Catholics, the old-Left Trotskyists,
elements of the center-left, and also a whole lot of unaffiliated people,
in the weeks before the European Social Forum in Florence:

"What is now being articulated in the weeks running up to the ESF is that
this process of alliance-building, underway in Italy since the the Genoa
Social Forum and the 2001 G8 summit and recently derided by the journal
DeriveApprodi in its 'Open letter to the European movements', must not be
allowed to bring the project of articulating non-state modes of resistance
and alternatives to capitalism to a standstill."

He goes on to talk specifically about the alliance between Rifondazione
Communista and the Disobedienti (aka Tute Bianche), bringing the European
Social forum, he says, "into such clammy proximity with a center left
party positioning for re-election."  There are plenty of strong words here
to condemn everybody without pure anarchist credentials. But doesn't this
just come down to identitarian rhetoric, which doesn't even advance its
own agenda?  That agenda is best stated in the closing lines of the piece,
when it's too late to talk about how to achieve it: the real goal, Jamie
says, is "to fight the emergence of the crypto-hierarchies that are
troubling the movement at a variety of levels, and to begin to find ways
of creating a public decision-making structure that can truly enact the
distributed will of the multitude."

Yeah, I more or less agree with that, and that's the importance of the PGA
call for an autonomous space at the ESF, that's the reason behind the "one
leg in, one leg out" idea, as far as I understood it.  Being suspicious of
the resistance movement's cooptation by social-democratic politicians is
just plain realistic. The vampires are out there, looking for a new
consensus. But thinking that the autonomous movement can create a "public
decision-making structure"  by retreating into its own networks seems to
me like a total illusion, and also a disavowal of the overall movement's
strength at moments like Seattle and Genoa - which in both cases broke a
ruling consensus through a powerful mixture, or even contamination, of
different political and social positions. I think the identitarian retreat
can actually foster the crypto-hierarchies. And that's a pity, coming from
the anarchist side which is best when it's mobile and tactically open. The
only way to make the dissident, transformational ideal into reality is to
confront the existing systems of public decision making with a better
structures and processes, ones that can actually generate large-scale
solutions to the large-scale bankruptcy of the neoliberal program. The
confrontation entails dialogue, ideas and experimental media.

The DeriveApprodi letter that Jamie King quotes is more interesting.  It
doesn't exactly "deride" the alliance-building process in Italy.  It says
the process is ambiguous, and often simplistic:

"To be clear: this is neither a linear process nor a uniquely positive
one. Ambiguities, personal rivalries and short-sightedness are
ever-present factors. Indeed, the debates regarding the actual contents of
such a movement are often slow-moving. In particular, with regards to the
question of work in the most general sense of the word, the movement has
demonstrated an alarming simplicity in its political proposals which, in
contrast to the rebirth of the pro-action and radicalism of the trade
unions, risks bringing the process to a standstill."

I think they're right. Refusing national-Keynesianism is fine, in the
general condemnations line, but it'd be nice to talk a little more often
about what sort of specific things can be done in the real situations. The
project of DeriveApprodi is to carry out an "inquiry"  among protagonists
of the counterglobalization movement, where the notion of inquiry gives
free rein to the political and methodological curiosity of the
respondents. I don't know how well they will fulfill that project, but it
looks to me like an experiment in representation, an attempt to do what
Jamie King calls for, "representing the unrepresentable." That's the real
challenge.  Social-democracy in the nineties found a very easy way to do
it: put people to sleep with promises they wanted to believe in.  
Liberal-fascism (Bush, Berlusconi...) has now found a wake-up answer:  
set just over half the national voters to hating and fearing the majority
of world society, then "represent" that hatred. Countering such
large-scale tactics would mean starting up dissenting and constructive
dialogues on a large scale, by experimenting with events like the ESF, and
with interactive media. Of course you don't have to agree in order to
debate, and one of the things that you can argue about is breaks of all
kinds (broken windows, broken promises, broken systems). The most useful
conversations start with the real problems, and keep up the tension
between utopian demands and short- or middle-term solutions.

I'm pretty curious about the ESF, about the autonomous or alternative
space, about how to keep up the tension between the two. You've got to be
a real pessimist not to see that a new season of social struggles is
opening up in Europe. It's not all going to disappear because a few
social-democrats want to grab some limelight. Florence is going to be an
amazing place to talk to people and find out what kind of another world is
really maybe possible. Plus there might be a few new ideas about what kind
of a nightmare we're really living in.

Brian Holmes

"The European Social Forum: Sovereign and Multitude"
J.J. King

"Open letter from 'DeriveApprodi' to the European movements"

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net