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ESF: "In the name of democracy..." ?

clara | 16.10.2004 19:54 | European Social Forum | Repression | London

yesterday's evening session on the occupation of Iraq couldn't go through - because of despite calls for democracy?

On Friday evening, I was coming into ali pali for another meeting, and had to wait near the entrance ofthe west hall for some people. At that moment, a session was scheduled about the occupation of iraq. However, it was a lot of shouting, whistling as well as cheering ans clapping - and a moderator who was trying to bring order in the masses of people standing there.

I had missed what it was all about, so I could concentrate on the moderation - which was quite astonishing.

Apparently somebody was invited to speak on that panel while a part of the audience was against him speaking there. In fact they thought he should have never been invited to the ESf in the first place. (Some Iraqi official... somebody told me the guy was from the Iraqui government,but i might also have been the Iraqi union reperesentative listed in the programme.)

Just before i came there had been a vote: a majority wanted him to speak, a minority wanted him to leave. The reaction of the moderator was simple: The meeting was challenged by people who said that this person should not talk in this session, that he should have not been invited - the moderator asked them to leave if they did not want to listen to them.

I suppose there are quite a few session where you don't want to listen to a speaker: usually you just don't go there. But not wanting to listen, and not wanting that somebody speaks are two different things. Not wanting to listen is something different then wanting a panel (of another 4 or 5 speakers) without that person interfering in the discussion.

The next argument was the constant referring to democracy: "for the sake of democary" the minority has to accept the majority vote. Clearly the ESf is not based on consensus or on any of the forms of decission makeing has have been developed by grass rots organistions and social movements. While I was waiting there, andother vote took place: "Who's for, who's against? Hands up" - Done.

And argument number 3: we need to stand together... "Last year the ESF was standing as one front. Now we have to end this occupoation and we can't afford to appear disagreeing."

As i said, I don't know who the person in question was. I don't know whether I would have wanted him on stage. But I know that social movements should have moved beyond telling people to walk away when they don't like something. Is that the way the ESF organizers think they can change the world? Taking the whole package as it is presented to you or leave?
And when we don't agree on strageties (like who to include in pur debates) should we shut up about them, because it's better the outside world does not know that we are politically debating?

PS: Later it appeared that the actual panel discussion did not take place.