An autonomous space initiative during the Athens ESF...

This just in via the labofii list…
Autonomous (ESF) Playground
Invitation for the creation of an autonomous space during the 4th
European Social Forum (Spring, 2006, Athens)

This spring, the 4th European Social Forum will take place in Athens. Thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of people from all around Europe, from an entire galaxy of social and political movements, organizations and collectives, will meet in our city to get to know each other, to exchange views and practices, to strengthen and extend the networks of resistance and creation, or even build new ones.

These meetings were born by the explosion of the so-called “anti-globalization movement”: that is the source of their massive, rich and diverse character. Our collective has been a “child” of this movement and we participated with great interest in the three previous meetings: in Florence, Paris and in London, but also during other European activists gatherings (like the People’s Global Action in Belgrade – summer of 2004). We discovered that – despite the distance – there are many things that unite us with collectives and people from other countries. We got ideas and inspiration, new viewpoints and practices, and we also tried to spread our own experience. We made fruitful contacts, that may become more fruitful in the future. We went down to the streets, we acted, played and enjoyed ourselves like a multitude without borders.

We think that the next meeting in Athens can be a very good opportunity to broaden and enrich these relations. Since the event will take place in our city, we have to (and we’ll be glad to) take on practical responsibilities around it, in return to the hospitality and hard work of previous meetings. And we want to do this with other collectives and people from all over Greece who want to participate in a productive and cheerful gathering, osmosis, networking procedure… in a big activist playground!

Sounds good, but how are we going to do it? And what does “autonomous space” mean?

Our experience from the previous meetings, tells us that European Forums are giant organizations, with many different levels and “agendas”. Lots of people will participate, act and interact during these days. People who traveled from the other side of Europe, even on their own or representing local collectives and small experimental networks. But also representatives from trade unions, political parties and organizations with tens of thousands members. All of them at the same time but with different viewpoints, aims and ranges, and therefore different organizational needs.

We want to be a part of this activist galaxy but we want to choose the ways to organize and correlate. We want our bodies to shape the matter and atmosphere of the space that will host the multitude we are very interested to meet: Collectives and people who act directly, both in their political practice (direct action, activism) as well as in their views of social change (the world won’t change with the revolution, we change the world around us now and every day). Those who struggle to build horizontal collective processes, based on consensus and solidarity, that recognize and try to pull down the existing discriminations of race, gender, age, class or sexual orientation. Those who don’t come with settled political agendas and out-of-the-box solutions, but are willing to experiment with their eyes wide open to reality, who see the entire society as a possible participant and co-organizator of their practices – not as the “other” that has to be convinced.

These people exist in the movement and need their space. Not in order to get into their shells, neither to denounce anybody. But to discuss, create relations, build networks on their terms and communicate with the rest of the movement on equal ground. Many collectives from all over Europe and Greece cannot and do not want to get involved with centralized – and often bureaucratic – procedures. The most radical and innovative views are often marginalized by these structures. It would be senseless to ask from the forum’s central stucture to take organizational decisions by consensus of 40000 people. Just as senseless as expecting that the forum’s centralized procedures can organize the space described above. This need has been expressed in the three previous forums with the creation of various autonomous spaces. We were in EuroHub in Florence, in Glad -Paris- and in London’s autonomous spaces, we were also in some big seminars and central manifestations in the official Forums there. And we took something from all these.

We propose an autonomous space like this: self-organized and tailored to our needs. Small scale and open to all directions for direct participation. In order to talk freely about our action experiences, about what excites us and what troubles us. And we invite you to form it with us, away of “inside or outside” divisive viewpoints. We are not interested in this “dilemma”, it’s the possibility of a lively and creative meeting that motivates us.

And what’s on the menu?

Whatever we fancy for! The Virus collective mostly focuses on practices of civil disobedience and direct action, on culture jamming, urban intervention. So we will organize workshops, discussions and actions of this kind and we will invite European collectives with similar interests.

Likewise, every collective or individual that would like to participate, can propose and organize events in the space, related to their actions.

They could also motivate other groups and individuals from all over Europe (and of course Greece) to participate.

Alright, since this is an invitation, let’s give some ideas of other topics that we find very interesting (the order is random and the list is not limiting):

* Alternative (grassroots) information and communication
* Precarity
* Gender and sexuality
* Economics of social solidarity
* The technology in our hands! Free software, digital struggle
against copyright control and patents, do-it-your self
* Alternative education:spreading knowledge freely
* Urban space rights (free spaces, self-organized spaces, bicycle
* No borders, the right to a global citizenship
* Participant, anti-commercial art

At the same time, we could organize discussions on issues that run through all topics, such as the problems that we face with direct-democracy procedures or even more general “theoretical” issues.

Apart from workshops and discussions, it would be great if we had permanent exhibitions, projections, bar and collective cuisine. We could also organize some actions altogether in the city. And of course a party for every night!

As at this first step we are addressing this message to those collectives that had organized or contributed to the organization of autonomous spaces in the past, it would be very helpful if you could provide as the links of those groups that you know that will be interested for this kind of effort.

Virus Collective

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