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(en) People's Global Action's infopoint newsletter - http://www.eurodusnie.nl/media/2003/11/799.pdf

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 9 Dec 2003 08:24:17 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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What is People's Global Action?
A historical perspective on PGA in Europe
You may have heard the name People's Global Action, but
you may not quite know what political dynamic
and what groups it includes. So here is a quick
flashback, in light of the preparation of PGA Europe's
Belgrade conference, scheduled for summer 2004, and
also to help further develop structures for
communication and exchange among anti-authoritarian
and anti-capitalist movements. This text focuses on
introducing PGA Europe, but occasionally extends to
cover the general history and worldwide process. The
acronym PGAe in this text refers to "PGA in Europe".
Needless to say, this text does not purport to establish
any kind of orthodoxy, neither regarding the history
of PGAe nor regarding its political goals. No one is
empowered to act as a PGAe spokesperson. No one can
represent PGAe. The comments outlined below
should therefore be seen as one point of view among
many, and a partial one at that. It is the point of view of
a handful of committed individuals engaged in the broad,
complex and fascinating process that is PGAe.

From the Earliest Days to

In the wake of the Zapatista insurrection in January 1994, in
Mexico, a number of encounters took place. Among these were
the famous "Intergalactic Encounters against Neo-Liberalism and
in favour of Humanity", held first in the Chiapas and subsequently
in the spanish state. The political context was glum. The Wall had
just fallen and free-market capitalism was - however briefly -
triumphant. The indigenous peoples of the Zapatista movement
had created a shock of hope. It ran round the world.
It was in the aftermath of these encounters that the idea of a
worldwide network for coordination and
information exchange among activists first
arose in theoretical discussion - and then
in practice. One early goal was to attack
the World Trade Organization. The First
WTO and free trade" conference took
place in Geneva, in February 1998.
Several hundred representatives of
people's movements from around the
world gathered. They managed to agree
on a political manifesto (1). Amongst the
participants were Canadian Postal
Workers, Earth First ecologists, French
farmers and anti-nuclear campaigners,
Maori, U'wa and Ogoni people, Korean
trades' unionists, North American native
women's organizations, radical Ukrainian
all continents. Their manifesto covered
such issues as the use of direct action as
principles based on decentralisation and autonomy; and building
direct democracy alternatives. This entire structure was to be
moved forward by 12 different groups, called "convenors",
distributed regionally throughout the planet.


Convenors are collectives acting as contact, information, and
coordination points. They co-organise global and regional
conferences and used to put out the calls for Global Days of
decentralised Action (GDA), notably on the occasion of WTO
summits. In the first convenors' committee there were 3 from
Latin America, 1 from western europe, 1 from Eastern Europe
and 2 from Asia. At the time of writing, there are sometimes
several convenors per region, especially in Latin America.
Convenors share their workload with other collectives. The
earliest European convenors were "Reclaim the Streets", a group
with its roots in radical ecology and road protests that had helped
renew anti-capitalist direct action techniques, notably through
the use of street parties as blockades and by establishing
connections with workers' organisations such as the Liverpool
dockers or London Underground workers. In Asia, convenership
work has been done by organisations like KRRS, an Indian farmers'
union with a membership of several million, best-known for setting
firetoMonsantoGMcropfields,and theNationalAllianceofPeoples'
Movements, a national platform of grassroots movements from the
whole country (which includes Narmada Bachao Andolan, the
National Fisherfolk Forum, the Union of Landless Labourers of
Andhra Pradesh, etc). The current Asian convenor is the Krishok
Federation (the landless or otherwise marginalised peasant
movement) from Bangladesh. In Latin America,
PGA has gathered very diverse cultures and
backgrounds, from CONFEUNASCC, a small-
scale farmers' union in ecuador, Movimiento
de la Juventud Kuna, the Bolivian cocalero
movement in Chapare, to the Colombian
Process of Black Communities.
And so resistance became as
global as capital
In May 1998, the first fruits of PGA were seen
in four days of worldwide resistance against
the G8 summit in Great Britain and the WTO
summit in Geneva, which was the second
Ministerial Conference since the creation of
the WTO, and a celebration of 50 years of
GATT and post-World-War-II capitalist world
order. This was the first of a long series of
counter-summits. It included some of the
hottest protests that Geneva had ever seen and
in Birmingham participants in the G8 summit were forced to stage a
secret evasion to escape a newly occupied city. Meanwhile, some
200,000 Indian farmers demonstrated to demand that the WTO be
In those days, the dynamic remained locally-based. PGA-initiated
Global Days of Action were decentralized events. One of the most
impressive was J18, on June 18th 1999, an anti-capitalist day to
correspond with the G8 summit in Cologne. Actions were organized
in 72 different locations, including the arrival in Cologne of the Inter-
Continental Caravan for Solidarity and Resistance (formed by
grassroots groups from India and other Southern countries) and a
festive occupation of the City of London which ended with the
financial centre being ransacked by a few thousand demonstrators.
During this period, the expression "anti-capitalist" made a massive
return both among militants and in the media. The slogan "Capital is
global, the struggle is global" was put into practice.
In Seattle, in November 1999, the closure of the ministerial
conference of the WTO showed the effectiveness of combining
the many different direct actions - sometimes highly coordinated,
like the blockades of all the streets leading to the summit - that were
organized by small affinity groups. There were solidarity actions
in more than 70 countries. The so-called "Battle
of Seattle" which had radicals at its forefront,
was nonetheless quickly exploited by traditional
leftist citizen reform groups and non-
governmental organizations (NGO's), which
sought to use it as a "creation myth" for their
new strategies of power-sharing among trade
bodies and "civil society." In September 2000,
the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World
Bank summit in Prague, Czech Republic, was
PGAe's chance to see how well actions using a
diversity of tactics, such as street parties -
dancing and mobile confrontation (the pink line),
sabotage (the blue line) and confrontational civil
each other. There was also a multitude of
preparatory initiatives, such as the "caravan
against capitalism," a roving series of actions in
French-speaking parts of Europe, initiated by the
Reseau Sans Titre (the Untitled Network).
The counter-summits and global protests rapidly
transformed into occasions for mass
convergences of activists from all over, and these
the precedent set by the ominous repression
during the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy. Today's
counter-summits bring together a spectrum of
groups, political parties, and "civil society" NGO's
that is much broader than just the ensemble of
groups involved with PGA. Indeed, it is often
forgotten that the original impetus behind these
counter-summits came from radical groups
opposed to lobbying and who denounce the
welfare-state and parlementary "democracy" as
much as (neoliberal) capitalism.

PGA hallmarks
The purpose of PGA exchanges and the PGA
network is to connect local groups that agree
with the PGA's hallmarks:

1 Averyclearrejectionofcapitalism,imperialism
and feudalism; all trade agreements, institutions
and governments that promote destructive

2 We reject all forms and systems of domination
and discrimination including, but not limited to,
patriarchy, racism and religious fundamentalism
of all creeds. We embrace the full dignity of all

3 A confrontational attitude, since we do not
think that lobbying can have a major impact in
such biased and undemocratic organisations, in
which transnational capital is the only real policy-

4 A call to direct action and civil disobedience,
support for social movements' struggles,
advocating forms of resistance which maximize
respect for life and oppressed peoples' rights,
as well as the construction of local alternatives
to global capitalism.

5 An organisational philosophy based on
decentralisation and autonomy.
PGA has no members and does not have and
will not have a juridical personnality. Nor
organisation or person represents PGA.

Political developments and other forms of action

Apart from mass events, the frequency of which
PGA has also been responsible for the
development of other processes, that are
sometimes less well-known. The Intercontinental
Caravan enabled some 400 members of Indian
farmers' organizations and some 50 members of
other "third world" people's movements to come
to Europe and demonstrate outside major
institutions such as the WTO, the IMF, the OECD,
NATO and so on, as well as outside multinational
companies' European headquarters.
They destroyed GM crop fields and a state
research laboratory. Crucially, the caravan
enabled these "third world" groups to build
bridges with a variety of European movements.
PGA-inspired Global Days of Action provided a
context within which to develop creative forms
of direct action, even for quite small collectives.
capitalist carnivals and so on. The very
decentralization and proliferation of contacts
between various groups led to the establishment
of participative outward communication tools
such as Indymedia (There are currently more
than 130 separate Independent Media Centers,
collectives within IMC's as well as "rogue" IMC's
operating independently from the network;
Indymedia has been called "the largest all-
volunteer organization in the world."). Other
internal tools such as PGA's internal lists were
developed, providing a noticeboard for actions
and analyses round the world.
In July 2002, the international no-border camp in
Strasbourg, France, marked a coming-together
of PGAe's various organizational modes and
particular to the international No Border network.
The result was the next (shaky) step in the
evolving practices of self-management and
autonomous living, direct democracy, and
a period of 9 days. This experience would
provide a base of experience that helped to
launch the other camps and similar "autonomous
villages" that proliferated during the anti-G8
demonstrations in May and June 2003, in France
and Switzerland.
PGA's Second Global Conference took place in
the network proclaimed its intention of going
beyond "free exchange" of ideas and information,
other forms of domination such as sexism and
racism. A decision was reached to clearly identify
the differences between PGA and other anti-
globalization groups whose ideas are
fundamentally opposed to ours such as, extreme
right-wing groups, political parties and reformist
NGOs. PGA's 3rd Global Conference took place
in Cochabamba in Bolivia. It stressed the
importance of local and regional processes.
Despite these positive developments and after
several years of - perhaps too frenetic - activism,
and political goals of PGA were expressed with
increasing force. PGAe's European conference
at Leiden in August 2002 aimed to confront these
criticisms and act on them.

PGAe's 2nd Conference

The first European PGA conference took place
in the year 2000 in Milan, Italy, and was hosted
by the Italian "Ya Basta!" movement for civil and
social disobedience. The second took place in
September, 2002, in the small city of Leiden,
Netherlands, and was hosted by EuroDusnie, an
anarchist collective, which was a European co-
convener with the Catalan Movimiento de
Resistencia Global (Global Resistance
Movement). Lots of people from across Europe
converged to share analyses and discussions;
at least 650 were officially signed up, and many
more just attended. One of the main points of a
conference like this was simply to facilitate face-
to-face encounters and to bring to light, even in
the eyes of the participants themselves, the
state of mind. The conference was also an
opportunity to bring about a common
understanding of the forces and struggles
represented there, to consider questions the
movement faces in common, and then to move
forward with concrete proposals in response to
the question, "What now?"
Our Dutch hosts had put in place an
organizational structure aimed at ensuring the
participation of all those present. All participants
were invited to get involved in the cooking and
cleaning; preparing and moderating meetings,
workshops and discussions; creating a daily
newsletter summarizing the outcomes of the
with transport, particularly for groups from
beyond the European Union's Eastern border, by
means of a redistribution of Western Europeans'
registration fees.
The question of who might be admitted to the
conference was raised, bearing in mind that the
is to connect local groups recognizing the
founding hallmarks.
There was no strict mode of selection, though
registration did include a request for reasons for
participating. People were actively encourage to
prepare for the conference at a local level.
Discussion days were seriously hard work. They
mainly took the form of small discussion groups
but also on general strategic questions relevant
to the movement as a whole and working groups
of PGAe organizational structures. The issue of
how discussion should be conducted and how
decisions should be reached was the subject of
lively debate, with a view to encouraging
egalitarian participation and counteracting
power-plays. Techniques used include
facilitation, hand-signals, small groups,
progressive consensus and so on.

The tyranny of having no (formal) structure

The balance between formal and informal, in the
ways that PGAe works as a network, was
another main focus of the structure debates.
PGAe has a strong preference for organic and
affinity-basedrelationships. Butitbecameequally
apparent that the lack of clarity as to "who takes
care of what" makes the distribution of
responsibility overly fluid and makes it unclear
exactly how and where decisions are made and
makes it difficult for new people to integrate. This
in turn leads to informal hierarchies which are
particularly hard to read because they are
invisible. The challenge is therefore to make it
more explicit how the structure works, without
rigidity and without falling back into the
bureaucratic and authoritarian structures that we
have been reflexively conditioned to expect. (2)
Finally, the work on the PGAe structures (mailing
lists, web-sites, information relay systems,
contact lists, and conference organization)
should be done in a much more formal and open
way... so as to invite many more people to get
involved. Faced with the absence of new
conveners and the need to clarify the work to be
done on the network structures, a new working-
group meeting for PGAe was held at the
Tanneries, an autonomous self-managed space
at Dijon in France in March 2003. It was at this
group, offered to act as convenors.
made about PGAe process in Leiden (3), which
were completed in Dijon (4) , are available on the
web. They are based on the organizational
principles of PGA, which were affirmed at
Cochabamba. (5)

The info points...

To move PGAe forward on a large scale and to
decided to set up several "info points," a series
of local groups that are involved in PGAe. Each
"info point" group is responsible for spreading
information about the conferences, history and
projects of the PGA network to people who are
interested. These info points are not "members"
of PGA, because PGA has no membership, but
they do work to make this network more visible,
an important task, considering that the network
does not speak as a whole or as an organization.
You can find a contact list for these info points
on the `net. (6)

European Convenors and Process Group

The role of European convenors was defined at
Leiden as organizers of the European
conference, responsible for making the network
visible and dynamic, as well as maintaining its
infrastructures (web site, newsgroups, contact
lists) and contacts with the rest of the planet. At
Dijon, it was decided that these tasks could be
shared amongst different collectives interested
in committing to PGA and its structures (with
particular reference to infopoints). These
collectives constitute the process group.
One of the most powerful tools of the network
is the PGA web-site (6), which compiles a large
number of historic texts, announcements, action
reports and reports from PGA conferences.
Another tool being developed is the web site
https://global.so36.net, a thematically-structured
articles on themes and actions.
Three mailing lists have been created as
communication tools for PGAe...
pga_europe_process list is a forum that all of
the collectives involved in the PGAe structures
and decision-making processes (conferences,
lists, web-sites, info points, etc.) should
subscribe to. pga_europe_resistance list is
for announcements of and reports from events
and actions. The pga_europe_discussion list
is for basic texts and debates. To subscribe to
these lists, go to the webform. (7)

The sustained campaigns...

In Leiden, thematic working groups were set
up, based on PGA principles. One was on
water, and another was on creating alternative
forums ("hub" projects) during the various social
forums. Since Dijon, there has been a specific
working-group dynamic focussed on gender.

Finally, what is PGA? A Network? A Coordination? An Exchange?

These discussions posed the question of the
possibilities and limits to a network that claims to
be based on decentralization and autonomy,
which has no official membership, offices, or
bank accounts, a network without
spokespersons, where nobody speaks in the
name of the network or makes decisions on its
behalf. The debate on the role of PGAe has
continued since Leiden and Dijon, and is still far
from being resolved. For some, the crucial point
is that, in contrast to political parties and other
coordination structures, PGA should not aim to
launch action campaigns in its own name, even
though the encounters between groups,
communication structures, and contact networks
that it offers have been able to greatly facilitate
even recently such as the global day of action in
December 2002 in solidarity with Argentina's
and events in 2003.

This doesn't mean that PGA conferences,
convenors, or simply groups in the network can't
take the initiative of launching propositions or
campaigns to the whole network. On the
contrary, the originality and dynamism of PGA is
means of action and coordinated autonomy - it is
a network capable of inspiring action. (In practice,
the origin of propositions have been quite
decentralised. The calls for action during Seattle
or Prague for example where first made by local
groups there, and picked up after by the
convenors.) In contrast to traditional
organisations, not only propositions can come
from anywhere, but there is also no effort to
make the actions appear as an international
action of PGA. The action is that of the
organisations that take it up, acting locally in their
own name. For this reason the network as such
goes relatively unnoticed, which does not make
it necessarily less efficient than a traditional kind
of organisation. It is certainly not PGAe's goal
tomake consensual decisions on global strategy
for world revolution. Apart from the hallmarks
and manifesto, PGA groups can disagree on all
kinds of things (particular forms of action or going
to Social Forums, for instance) without having to
split or argue endlessly. Thus some groups can
try a political hypothesis and come back to
discuss it after. For some, PGAe shouldn't
officially decide anything but its own structure
and the manner in which to set up gatherings,
lists, web sites, and other means of
communication. To people of this opinion, PGAe
is basically a means of exchange between
various groups who share a commitment to its
principles. There is considerable potential here,
since it enables regional and global moments of
coordination; it provides a means of getting to
know each other, of contrasting our various
approaches to political theories and struggles,
of sharing ideas for action, contacts and
resources, of providing ourselves with quality
time to judge the success of our actions and to
engage in thematic analysis. Despite this
emphasis on decentralized and autonomous
action, others also feel that, PGAe ought also to
be able to regularly find ways to put forward
campaigns and coordinated days of action, in its
own name. The issue remains under discussion.
Other debates in progress within PGAe:

Breaking out of the activist ghetto...

The question of how to open up our groups and networks,
which can sometimes ossify into closed tribes, rigid in our
identity politics, has many facets. How do we break out of the
"ghetto" of hard-line activists who are totally sure of the truth
of their mission and the justness of their means, without diluting
the radical hopes of our struggles and practices? By casting
an analytical eye to the makeup of our meetings, in Europe at
least, we can see that they are primarily made up of activist
"specialists," between 20 and 30 years old (even if there are a
few grey heads here and there) and a hegemony of middle-
class white folks. These observations reveal the lack of ties to
other categories of people, notably immigrants and
undocumented migrants, but also more generally the working
class. This contradiction is problematic for our struggles, in
Europe at least, within a network that calls itself "People's
Global Action" .(8)

Overview of the reflections on strategy...

There were several themes of the
discussions and political campaigns
opened up during the Leiden
conference. However, a few major
questions focussed the debates.
Here is an overview. The counter-
which since 1998 have made up a
common playing-field for the
movement, have since Spring 2000
been the object of various criticisms:
the trap of the spiral of repression, the
lack of focus on local struggles, the
society" and reform groups, the search for
unitary consensus among the masses rather than
fundamental analysis, our loss of the element of surprise,
the loss of our choice over the place and time of our actions,
and the lack of the constant renewal that is necessary to keep
our actions effective. Since Seattle, some activists have argued
that we ought to leave the the counter-summits to the unions
and the NGO's. Many people who have experience with
using other forms of action and in territories that are less fenced
in by the forces of repression. Others say, this is all true, but
can we simply abandon the terrain to the cops and reformists,
when we know that this huge magnet which we have created
is still drawing thousands of people, many of whom are basically
looking for us and not for reformist bla-bla. And how can we

The PGAe infopoint near you:?????????????

say that we want to break out of the ghetto and talk with all kinds of
people, but not want to talk with people from the base of ATTAC, for
example, or other people who come ? The debate continues...
It was also said it was no longer enough to identify the enemy as
being mainly made up of bigmultinational corporations and financial
institutions. We should refocus our critic of the state and social
control. as well as of all forms of domination within human
on the basis of sexuality, and other systems of oppression), and of
the ways that these systems of domination are integrated in our
own realities, in our daily lives and at the various scales of social
interaction in which we play a part. By varying our tactics and our
fields of discourse, by staying inventive and unpredictable, we can
still shake our contemporaries out of their resignation and alienation.
People spoke of developing structures to support autonomous
communities and self-sufficiency, silly actions and public art, street
assemblies, sporadic or permanent caravans, action camps,
occupations or new international days of action at places and times
of our choosing.
The importance of experiments in self-management, of squats and
other zones of temporary autonomy, currently under threat in
Europe, were stressed. Various forms of camouflage
and other anti-repression techniques were suggested
in order to avoid the pigeon-holes (or cages) in
which they are attempting to contain us, with
false claims of terrorism.
theoreticians, PGA is moving forward,
thanks to the multiple gifts brought to the
network by the creativity of individuals, with
the goal of creating common frameworks
for collective action, among those who
have no desire to be recognized within the
Left of political parties and institutional labor
unions, with their long line of hierarchical and
dogmatic organizations.
PGAe's Belgrade Conference, in the summer of
these debates, as well as discovering new faces
and new projects.
(1) http://www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/agp/en/pgainfos/manifest.htm
(2) Tyranny of structurelessness by jo freeman
( 3 ) h t t p : / / w w w. p g a c o n f e r e n c e . o r g / _ p o s t c o n f e r e n c e _ /
(4) http://www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/agp/free/dijon/report.htm
(5) http://www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/agp/cocha/principles.htm
(6) http://www.agp.org/
(7) http://www.pgaconference.org/_postconference_/mailform_1.htm
(8) For a detailed analysis of racism within PGA, see the People's
Global Radio interview with Maria Teresa Santana, at https://
The 3rd European conference of the Peoples`
Global Action (PGA) network: from the 23rd
until the 29th of July 2004 in Serbia,
Post-Yugoslavia. More info at:

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