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Maria Cernat was invited to represent the Barricade in the Transform! Europe Media Alliance project

What is the European Social Forum?

This a recurring event held by the members of the alter-globalization movement. The alter-globalization movement (also known as the Global Justice Movement) has a main objective to support internationalism, cooperation, and interaction, but based on solidarity and mutual understanding, not on the export of neoliberalism worldwide.

It was first held in Florence in 2002 under the slogan “Against war, racism and neo-liberalism,” and it continued up until 2010. Then, due to difficulties with finding host countries, it was not held until 2022 when Florence was once again the stage for an international peace movement gathering.

The first year of the European Social Forum was an exceptional one. The conference managed to gather a lot of attention and 60.000 delegates were present in Florence. The conference was echoed by a massive demonstration, one of the biggest protests against the war in human history with more than 1 million people participating in the event. On February 15 February 2003, a coordinated day of protests was held across the world in which people in more than 600 cities expressed opposition to the imminent Iraq War.

Who participates in the European Social Forum?

European Social Forum, foto credit Maria Cernat

The main participants are trade unions, peace associations, NGOs, anti-racist groups, anti-imperialists groups, and environmental movements all sharing the ideal of peace, cooperation, and an alter-globalization – meaning a form of globalization based on a completely different basis that the expansion of the capitalist way of production, exploitation, and imperialism.

The European Social Forum emerged from  World Social Forum and follows its Charter of Principles. The World Social Forum originated in Brasil and it is considered to be the first visible manifestation of civil society opposing the current definition and process of globalization and aiming at offering a different way of cooperation, progress, and development. It rejects the Washington Consensus and its institutional power structures such as the World Bank and the IMF.

The first European Social Forum was strongly opposed by important personalities such as Oriana Fallaci, who called for shutting down all commercial activity in Florence during the event that she considered being comparable to the Nazi occupation of Florence. Against the European Social forum were also the liberal Giovani Sartori and famous filmmaker Franco Zefirelli.

In 2003 in Paris at the occasion of the second forum 50,000 delegates attended and the event ended with a large pro-peace demonstration gathering 150,000 people. The London episode of the European Social forum taking place the following year was very tense: finances were hard to find, and an Iraqi speaker suspected of collaborating with the occupation was prevented from addressing the public. 2005 was the year that Athens hosted the event managing to get 80,000 people to march in the last day of the event.

The fifth European Social forum was held in Malmö, Sweden and it gathered approximately 20,000 people. The sixth edition of the European Social Forum was held in Istanbul, Turkey in 2010.

The Barricade was invited to attend the European Social Forum as a result of its implication in the Media Alliance Project coordinated by Roberto Morea from Transform! Europe.

Left: Alessia Gasparini, Media Alliance, Transform!Europe, Maria Cernat, center, Right: Roberto Morea, Media Alliance, Transform!Europe.

What is Transform! Europe?

Transform!Europe is a network of 39 European organizations from 23 countries, active in the field of political education and critical scientific analysis, and is the recognized political foundation corresponding to the Party of the European Left (EL).

This is one of the organizations that attended the European Social Forum this year in Florence. As the threat of nuclear war looms it is vital to have mobilizations for peace and Transform! Europe took it as its main objective to tackle ways to advance peace.

This year’s edition gathered more than 200 participants from more than 50 countries and 320 movements and organizations.

The war in Ukraine proved to be a very difficult moment for the peace movement since even organizations from the left began peddling for war against Russia even if it meant a hot military conflict with the country owning the largest nuclear arsenal in the world. Nevertheless, participants stood firmly in their belief that anything war can do peace can do better, and that the left should be anti-militaristic and anti-imperialistic while rejecting facile dualisms, Manicheism, and fanatic militaristic thinking.

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