Report on the 2nd CEE Social Forum held in Wroclaw 11-13 March 2016

Benyik

The Social Forum in Woclaw (Poland) was a continuation of the 1st CEE Social and Environmental Forum that was held in Vienna from 2nd til 5th May 2013 under the title of “Revolt in the periphery?”

The initiative of 2nd CEE Social Forum was born as the result of discussion with friends and comrades from Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, Ukraine and other countries about a year ago. The initiators, namely Monika Karbowska, Naila Wardi, Piotr Lewandowski, Ewa Groszewska recognized that it was a high time to restart the discussions, exchange the experiences and join anti-capitalist forces of the periphery in the fight for a better world. The 2nd Social Forum was attended by over 100 people from a dozen countries, including Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Russia, Slovenia, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine and the USA. One of the patrons of the event was the media portal lewica.pl One of the main goals of the Forum was to create strong solidarity among the peripherysed societies of East and South. Together with the friends and the comrades from North Africa and Greece the participants have analysed the political and economical situation in the CEE and the Mediterranian regions and found many similarities. The so-called “state socialism” period of the CEE region has been deeply analysed and great emphasis was put on a more organised cooperation and common actions right now and in the future. Two common experiences not mentioned in the new analyses on the Eastern European transition so far has been reported to the participants, nemely 1.) The system change in CEEC has taken place clearly with strong foreign – US and EU- intervention. The vast majority of the population wanted reforms, but wanted by no means the restoration of capitalism, especially not in its semi-colonial form. The capitalist intervention was realised in a pre-planned way and effected all areas of the society, namely the productive capacities, the institutions, the social organisations, the local authorities, etc. 2.) The brutal dismantling of the industrial and production capacities in general in the form of privatisation and factory closures, the foundations of CEEC’s independence have ceased. Due to the defenslessness, the low wage as the only „competitive” factor, so the emigration and the productive assembly activity become dominant.

Participants of the Social Forum decided to build up powerful links among left-wing organisations and activists in the CEE region and the Mediterranean area as well, in order to continue the anti-systemic struggle together.

The opening of the 2nd Social Forum was held on 11th March 2016 in the former Silesian Parliament building, which is now the Head Office of Technical Organization. Social Forum participants started with singing the “Internationale.” Later the Egyptian writer, a strong opponent of capitalism and militarism Samir Amin joined the opening via Skype. He spoke of the importance of international cooperation. He also referred to the situation in Egypt, where the military regime pretending itself as defender of freedom from the threat of Islamists.

One of the key speakers was a Member of the European Parliament, namely Konstantina Kuneva, who fought for the rights of Bulgarian emigrants in Greece, for which years ago she was doused with acid by the people cooperating with the Mafia.

Among the speakers the author of publications on war and imperialism, Professor Michel Collon from Belgium was also present. He talked about how the US military interventions and allied countries has led to the destabilisation of the international situation, including the crisis with a wave of refugees.

Professor Mazin Quymsyeh director of the Palestinian National History Museum joined the opening session via Skype, because he could not get a Polish visa to come to Wroclaw. He talked about the importance of international solidarity, including boycott of Israeli products.

A letter from Erdal Gökoglu was read out. He is a Turkish opposition activist who is unlawfully held in a Polish prison, despite having received political asylum in Belgium. He was arrested in January, when he came to the wedding of his Polish colleague. The basis for Gökoglu’s arrest was a search warrant issued by the Turkish authorities accusing him of “terrorism.”

On Saturday, March 12 the work of the Forum continued. The discussion was attended by civic activists, academics and politicians, who focused on the important issues specific to the countries they represent.

Three issues were in the highlight, namely:

  1. Militarization of Eastern Europe;

  2. The Role of NATO and Provocations of the Wars ;

  3. Issue of Ukraine as the Example of Making the War in the Region.

The first speaker was a journalist, Jacek Kaminski who moderated this session. He noted the importance of the forthcoming debate over the militarisation of Eastern Europe and invited participants to discuss the different points of view.

Professor Michelle Colon, Belgium, proclaimed the need to recreate a broad anti-war movement in Europe. It is puzzling why the Europeans were actively protesting against the military actions of their governments in local conflicts in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and now, when a real war has started in Europe, the public does not react to the bloodshed of civilians in Ukraine. This passivity is nothing else, but a result of manipulation of public opinion of the European people, and above all depends on media’s position. Prof. Colon proposed the creation of a network of information points, which could quickly share objective information.

Victoria Machulko, a representative of 2 May Committee from Odessa, spoke about the development and results of the popular protest movement that arose after the Bandera pogrom that took place in Odessa on May 2, 2014. She was talking about the resistence of the inhabitants of Odessa against the repression imposed by the Kiev authorities. She stressed that in spite of the terrible events of May 2, 2014, there is a peaceful protest movement, even under the ongoing terror to struggle against the nationalist ideology imposed to the society. Forum participants observed a minute of silence in memory of anti-fascists who were killed in battle with the right-wing radicals.

Jan Lelchuk from Alternatives of Russia Movement spoke about cooperation between activists from Russia and New Russia against the war and common actions to introduce pro-social reform in Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic.

Russian Communists representative Daria Mitina said that current approaches to solving the conflict in the South-East of Ukraine have become obsolete. There is no military solution to this problem. But as long as the leaders of Europe turn blind eye to pro-Nazi movement in Ukraine, the conflict will not be able to stop or freeze. It is impossible to be walled off from fascism. Daria Mitina asked everybody to work on informing their people about what is happening.

Marko Milachich from Montenegro focused on how his country accesses to NATO. Most citizens do not agree with the entry into NATO. To this aim only representatives of Montenegro’s ruling circles insist on it but they are not going to ask people’s opinion. At the end Marko Milachich expressed the view that only the struggle against anti-popular plans of the country’s ruling elite will allow to count on the realization of the true interests of the people of the country.

Associate Professor Yuri Shakhin focused on the origins of international tensions in Eastern Europe. They appeared before the Ukrainian crisis and associated with the United States activity. These are NATO’s eastward expansion and the creation of a US missile defense system in the region. At the same time Russia since 2013 conducts unannounced military exercises that cause a panic reaction in the West. “But if we take the ratio of military power, NATO should not worry. NATO military expenditure in 2013 exceeded the Russian military spending by more than 10 times and accounted for more than half of all military spending worldwide. But despite such a clear predominance in force, the NATO countries have begun to strengthen their position in Eastern Europe.” Russia took up the challenge, although limited in its material resources. Then he focused on the problems of struggle against militarism and the threat of war. According to him, the social movements of Eastern Europe are not yet able to effectively counter the military threat. However, there is still time, that can be used to strengthen the anti-war forces. To do this, Shakhin urged to study the experience of the anti-war struggle in Ukraine and gave an overview of the anti-war protests. He estimates there were more than 130 anti-war actions in Ukraine in the period of 2014-2015.

The second panel was dealing with ethno-nationalism and racism. Among the speakers Anna Edwards of the United National Antiwar Coalition (USA) spoke about the American nationalism and the militarization of society and the use of scaring terrorism for political purposes. Representatives of social movements from Hungary, Austria and Bosnia were also expressing their concerns about the rise of ultra-nationalism, neo-fascism and racist tendencies in the region.

There was a panel discussion on the balance of real socialism in Central and Eastern Europe. Judit Morva, chief editor of the Hungarian version of “Le Monde Diplomatique” was speaking about the impoverishment of many regions of Hungary. She explained the authoritarian policy of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. In her view, a large part of the Hungarian society is passive. Orban admittedly seeks to prevent the advance of foreign capital, but massively supports the domestic bourgeoisie, which is exploiting the workers.

Peter Szumlewicz of OPZZ discussed both positive and negative sides of social programs in the state socialist times. Social programs have given much greater protection than the present system, but did not provide, for example, full equality between women and men.

A representative of the Polish Communist Party, in turn, spoke about the industrialisation of the socialist era and about the structural changes regarding the industry since 1989. Statistical data and demographic trends were extensively shown. The industry is based now mainly on assembling components for large multinationals. The conditions of employment worsened significantly in Poland.

Sonja Lokar of Slovenia presented the Slovenian story of transformation that took place in a more veiled manner than in Poland. After the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Slovenian authorities promised to put the country on the Scandinavian model of social capitalism, however, after obtaining sufficient Western influence privatization and commercialization started in great leaps.

Professor Bruno Drwęski from Investing Actions (France) spoke about the transformation used during structural adjustment programs originally invented by the international financial institutions to submit postcolonial countries to the mercy of international capital.

Yuri Głuszakow of Belarusian organizations Razam talked about the social consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fact that Belarus begins to implement some of the recommendations of international financial institutions.

Another panel were discussing about how the feminist movement takes part in the class struggle. The speakers, Katarzyna Bratkowska from the March 8 Agreement and Maha Abdelhamid from Tunisia and Armagan Tulunay representing the Workers Revolutionary Party (DIP) from Turkey shared their experiences. They discussed about the need to link the movement for women’s rights to the economic fights and strongly criticised the neo-liberal feminism.

The last session of the second day of the Forum dealt with the peripherisation of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. Michael Savas Matsas of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (EEK) Greece talked about how the EU and the International Financial Institutions lead to a deepening of the crisis. Jan Mayicek from the Czech Committee Against TTIP talked about the risks of international agreements TTIP receiving the sovereignty of national governments and, for example, limiting production standards and safety. He also talked about the European-wide campaign against the agreement TTIP. Sungun Savran from DIP Turkey spoke about the increasingly authoritarian rule in Turkey.

After the Saturday’s meeting of the Forum, in the evening there was a demonstration against militarism in the downtown of Wroclaw.

The Final Declaration of the 2nd CEE Social Forum is now under preparation, the draft version is as follows:

From 11th to 13th March 2016 about one hundred participants from different civil society organisations and radical left forces gathered in Wroclaw (Poland) in order to exchange experiences on the peripheric situation of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEEC) and the South and to outline common political goals for the future. As a result of the 13 sessions on wide ranging issues, like militarization, racism, antifascism, feminism, neocolonisation, environment, peripherisation, workers rights and devastating consequences of the system change in CEEC, we arrived at the following conclusions:

1.) The participants of the Forum were united in declaring that this forum had an clear anticapitalist character and keep on cooperating in this direction in the future;

2.) The participants unanimously demanded the dissolution of NATO and to stop militarisation;

3.) The system change in CEEC has taken place clearly with strong foreign – US and EU- intervention. The vast majority of the population wanted reforms, but wanted by no means the restoration of capitalism, especially not in its semi-colonial form. The capitalist intervention was realised in a pre-planned way and effected all areas of the society, namely the productive capacities, the institutions, the social organisations, the local authorities, etc. The brutal dismantling of the industrial and production capacities in general in the form of privatisation and factory closures, the foundations of CEEC’s independence have ceased. Due to the defenslessness, the low wage as the only „competitive” factor, so the emigration and the productive assembly activity become dominant;

4.) Under the rule of neoliberal capitalism in crisis, the population of the peripheric countries both of the South and the CEE region has been suffering heavy losses in their life conditions, economy, culture, society, and our environment has been seriously damaged. Industry has been downsized, unemployment and poverty reached unbearable size, i.e. the CEEC – similarly to the South – have become the exploited periphery of the developed capitalist countries. During the transition years, even the up-to-date technical and economic co-operations of the CEEC were cut off. At the same time, participants are aware of the fact that the former socialist attempts have had several weaknesses and even mistakes – some of which originated in the historical situation of under-development and military conflicts;

5.) In the wake of the crisis, dangerous far right and fascist political forces have been reviving and strengthening. This is the result of the prevailing capitalist system and imperialism;

6.) Participants of the Forum made the following decisions:

a.) to organise a meeting on the refugee question in South Europe, either in Greece or in Italy this year;

b.) to hold the next Social Forum in spring 2017 in Hungary or in Bulgaria;

c.) to enlarge cooperation and build up a stronger movement of the CEEC and the countries of South, including the Balkan, North Africa and Latin-America as well as with social movements of China;

d.) Main slogans were: STOP MILITARISATION! DISSOLVE NATO! INSTEAD OF WAR BREAD TO THE PEOPLE! ANOTHER WORLD IS NOT ONLY POSSIBLE BUT VERY NECESSARY!

Organisers of the Social Forum Wroclaw/POLAND

Budapest, 24th March 2016.

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