Twenty years ago, in November 2002, tens of thousands of activists, trade unionists, NGOs and civil society campaigners gathered in Florence as part of the first European Social Forum to call for an alternative model of globalisation capable of delivering global justice.
That mobilisation, which culminated in a million strong march against the war in Iraq, might appear like a relic from a different age. In the years that have passed, state violence and mass surveillance have hindered democratic activism around the world and right-wing nationalism has gained ground in many countries. Political participation is declining just about everywhere while progressive movements are struggling to break out of national bubbles or online echo chambers, while, in many countries, facing outright repression.
This is, in many respects, a bleak state of affairs. And yet the alter-globalisation agenda is more relevant than it has ever been. Few would deny that coordinated action across borders, at a global scale, is needed in order to tackle such issues as climate breakdown, widespread poverty, resource scarcity and future pandemics. While we may not yet be able to celebrate the advent of planetary politics is this recognition not the new phase, and the new face, of alter-globalism?
On the anniversary of the 2002 Florence event, as diverse groups of social actors gather in the city once again, the EUI-STG forum will host a special meeting to assess what is needed in order to deliver on the promise of alter-globalisation in the era of planetary politics. Among other things we will be asking:
What are the ideas and frames we need to uphold from the alter-globalisation agenda? While western countries continue to turn a blind eye to their colonial past and present, people of the global majority - those on the frontline of many global emergencies - are denied real agency in designing solutions. Fair distribution of pain and gain across the world, global historical and redistributive justice, the import of colonial legacies, are all frames we have inherited from this prior era. How are they still relevant and how should they be transformed?
What lessons should we draw from the history of political organising in Europe and beyond, notably these last 20 years? Political parties and organised labour are arguably, less influential than they’ve ever been. Social media, once lauded as having utopian potential, has served largely to benefit the entrenched powers of big tech and big finance while undermining the integrity of elections. Traditional representative democracy is in trouble everywhere. But new forms of representation are emerging from direct democracy and citizens initiatives to democracy by lottery. How can the old forms be revived and the new forms be made more effective transnationally?
And what of the design of the formal world of transnational trans-national cooperation? What kind of political subject(s), or tactics could most influence organisations perceived as removed from citizens, from the EU to the Breton Woods institutions?
More specifically, to what extent can or should the ‘social forum model’ be revitalised? How realistic is it to propose that this model or organising might yet provide the conditions for a planetary politics to combat poverty and inequality around the world? What other kinds of alliances are necessary to creating hope, and the possibility of action, at this time of relative demobilisation?
This event will be followed by a reception at Palazzo Buontalenti from 19.00-20.00