- Call for Participation towards the emergence of a new “Alternative Village” space in Hokkaido
- To all of our friends who are attending EuroMayDay 2008
- Repression in Nordic countries
Call for Participation towards the emergence of a new “Alternative Village” space in Hokkaido
“G8 Action Network” Convergence-center / Camp Work Group
• Our Plan
The G8 will be held in July of this year (200 8) at lake Toya (Toya-ko) in Hokkaido. We expect thousands of people from all over the world will gather in Hokkaido, as individuals and various NGO groups, to take part in a medley of actions. We (Convergence-center/Camp Work Group) look forward to the completion of an Alternative Village, both a hive for the swarm and a place for dialogue.
The convergence-center will act as your window to a host of knowledge & information concerning the G8; as a studio for printing data & documents; as a studio for creative work & operations; as a meeting place, and as a resting place; as a point of internet access; and as a forum for international exchange. The center will function as an important node, gathering those of us unaccustomed with the land together in order to stimulate collaborative operations, and, at the same time, we will work to ensure that local voices are active in education and discussion.
The Camp is provided as an area for those of us coming with (I)NGOs and citizens’ groups to pitch our tents.
We are working with you to plan an international kitchen, concerts, film screenings, a world football tournament, workshops on environmental issues and nature conservation, as well as other events to be held in and around the camp grounds. This is ‘another possibility’, “Alternative Village”. “Alternative Village” will be an experimental environment in which every participant builds the space for participation with their own hands. This is the type of space that has been actualized through the participation of many people against the G8 at Évian-les-Bains in France, again at Gleneagles in Scotland, and again at Heiligendamm in Germany. Moreover, the camp and its surrounding activities provide a chance for those from around the world to interchange and build networks with the local residents.
• Our Goals
The aims of the Convergence-center and Camp are not simply to provide an infrastructure for information-exchange and lodging; more broadly, we hope to help architect a shared space in which we can mutually help out and cooperate. This is a space for the creation of ideas & expressions by all its participants; a solid foundation onto which we may build something anew. The establishment of this free, open space takes a large place among our goals.
• We Need Your Participation & Collaboration!
Currently, we are looking for volunteers to help in creating and running the Convergence Center and to participate in the Camp Work Group. Everyone with interest is sincerely invited to contact us at the e-mail address below.
To all of our friends who are attending EuroMayDay 2008
This is a solidarity letter from far across the Eurasian continent, in the far east, Japan.
The globalisation of neo-liberalism has been on a rampage here in Japan as well. It promotes and applauds severe competition between people and is ripping the society into pieces. Through the deflation of the Japanese economy in the 1990’s, management gain and corporate dividends have drastically increased. On the other hand, the Japanese government, with its call for the efficiency of administrative services and maintenance of corporate global competitiveness, has been accelerating the reduction of social security benefits and the form of irregular employment.
As a result, half of the young generation and women in Japan face irregular employment. With people getting hired everyday and dismissed everyday, living under unstable conditions without unemployment benefit, worker’s compensation, or medical insurance, ten million people are now not even able to gain the minimum income which is deemed necessary for survival. Furthermore, the Japanese government, which looks upon immigrants as criminals, has delegitimized the act of working by those who do not hold a Japanese nationality. While the Japanese government tolerates the incitement of racial exclusion by the right wing, they are forcing slave labor towards immigrant workers from mainland Asia slyly through internship programs.
Neo-liberalism promotes the internalization of the management minds, and is attempting to conceal the crisis by stripping the very lives of people. However, their conspiracy will certainly fail. The breeding of the precariat is forwarding the liaison with the breeding of people who will never synchronize with a flow that forces to give up one’s freedom and life.
In 2008, a number of 13 May Day actions that bravely resist neo-liberalism will take place throughout Japan. Preparations for the anti-G8 protests are also taking place. No longer can the light of resistance that has been lit be turned off.
This movement of the precariat, which accounts for the vast majority of the world, resisting isolation and seeking autonomy within solidarity, has already risen here in Tokyo as well.
Aachen is with Tokyo, and Tokyo is with Aachen. Celebrating the success of EuroMayDay, in solidarity.
Freeter’s Union, Tokyo MayDay 08 For Freedom and Lives, organisation committee
Repression in Nordic countries
To understand what can be done about repression issues at ESF it could be useful to know something about the situation in the host countries. I am not an expert and my knowledge is superficial but I may have a general picture which may be of use to you. I guess that it is of importance that Nordic organisations get involved to make repression and important issue at ESF-5. The information and opinion below are from the perspective of Friends of the Earth Sweden and are not to be seen as the opinion of any organisation. They can be published for non-profit purposes.
On general level repression is growing as well as its counterpart, growing tension among people in common. Its most severe small-scale expression is on the one hand class and racist exclusion of segregated suburbs were Rosengård in Malmö were ESF will have some of its venues is the most extreme in this city and maybe all of Sweden. Here the youth since beginning of this decade throw stones at ambulances and fire brigades when they come to try to help people, which causes problems. This kind of tensions have now spread all over Sweden, even to my little home town Kristianstad with some 35 000 inhabitants and its most segregated suburb. Sweden have three of Europes 10 most segregated cities with high unemployment rates and the accompanying social problems.
Yet still Sweden has some positive political aspects which also higlights repression and racism. Malmö is the lovenest for Danish couples if one have wrong colour on the skin. New very strict laws prohibits Danes from falling in love and then marrying the one they love if this person have the wrong genes from a foreign country, so many thousands have emigrated to Malmö.
Society in general is also more organised on the micro level to focus on protection and security with so called grannskapssamverkan, neighbours cooperating against crime. There is some excellent litterature on this subject by Magnus Hörnqvist.
But there are a lot of people more knowledgeable on this subject than I am concerning how police and security expansion develops in the Nordic countries at the moment.
Concerning more immediate repression against movements there is three sides to it at least – against free zones, against summit and other movement protests and meetings and finally terrorist laws.
Concerning attacks against free zones the most severe is to destroy commons that have been conquered like Christiania by forcing them to split up into market shares instead of communal living. But more media interest have been given to the highly conflictual situation around Ungdomshuset – the youth house in Copenhagen. More than 2 500 people have been arrested in this conflict during a year, more than during any other civil conflict the last 50 years in the Nordic countries as far as I know. This conflict took a successful Gandhian turn on 6th October which means that the municipality now after thousands of people non-violently overwhelmed the police and conquered a building is at least in words stating that they now are willing to give the youth house initiave a new house. And in fact, a month ago a new youth house was established.
This struggle is full of experiences learned and of interest concerning how to beat or at least handle repression both in media, by the police and politicians. House occupations also have spread significantly in Finland inspired by the Copenhagen events. A week ago a severe attack by neo-nazis took place in Helsinki against a squatted house, the first time since the riots against the world youth festival 1962 that such right wing extremism beocomes violent in Finland. In Norway the youth houses Blitz, Hausmania and Hjelmsgate in Oslo and UFFA in Trondheim every time now and then are threatened which so far have ended in new agreements with the politicians and no acute situation is in sight, on the contrary has the Danish politicians been criticised on quite high level in Norway for their way of dealing with the youth house conflict. This as well in Sweden were different forms of free zones have a small tendency to grow at the moment.
Concerning attacks on summit protesters and demonstrations this is an issue that yet have not been resolved. The police actions against the Counter conference at the EU-Summit encircling it with 150 containers and then causing chaos by attacking demonstrators at many occasions still is a heavy blow to the popular movements in Sweden and their relation to all parliamentarian parties whether left or right. Contrary to all other countries I know of the left and green party leaders sided with the police and media against the demonstrators in spite of that both parties were members of the coalitions that organised the counter conference destroyed by the police and the big demonstrations. Afterwards the Left party have learned something although never in public stated something about their mistake during the Summit when their leader lied in massmedia against the demonstrators and the coalitions organising demonstrations thus legitimizing further escalation of state violence against reclaim the streets and next days ínternational demonstration. The Green party leader used similar wordings as the Left party but never directly lied to legitimate further escalation. Furthermore for some reason four of the top Green leaders were personally beaten to the ground by the police, arrested or in other ways harassed by the police during the summit protests while no single Left party leader had this kind of experience to my knowledge. But afterwards the Greens were so confused that they could not make any systematic political intervention. But still it is the Greens who have an MP who was in the midst of the organisation of the international coalition organizing the protests, the left party and its youth never were present in any significant way in coordination of the coalition, they wanted their leaders to speak at the demonstrations while the Greens did lot of solidarity work in the coordination of the protests. The local social democratic leader in the city center gave flowers to the police. The liberals and conservatives did not have to do anything as the social democrats and left helped them together wiht mass media to say what they wanted. One local liberal politician made an appela that all school pupils should travel to St Petersburg to learn more about the crimes of communism to vaccinate them against any left extremist undemocratic ideas. In this way they should stop throwing stones at shopping windows or the police. Today the local liberal politician who brougth forward the St Petersburg idea is head of the liberal party and minister of education. A Swedish conservative MP became spokesperson for the biggest European party, EPP, when it succesfully introduced the idea that the crimes of communism had to be condemned in the Council of Europé.
The main organisers of the EU-critical international coalition during the Swedish EU-presidency with 87 organisations as members were SAC, the radical small syndicalist trade union and Friends of the Earth Sweden. The main stream trade union LO in Sweden refused as the only trade union in EU to partcipate in demonstrations calaiming it was not thei tradtion to demonstrate. Many LO sister trade unions in Denmark and Norway participated in the EU protest demonstrations in Gothenburg. In the ESF process including a planned demonstration Friends of the Earth Sweden is still one of the organisations that have participated from the beginning, this time with Swedish LO trade unions while SAC is passive.
SAC was severely criticised internally and from others because of the riots. Their allied among anarchists were totally condemned by all parties and the media. Trials put people in prison in total for 50 years, ten times more in total than after any other riot the last 100 years in Sweden. People really suffered as many were unorganised among the imprisoned and almost no political solidarity work was done. For some reason that I still do not understand the left refused to organise any collective support, apart from Norway were one International Socialist activist accused of throwing bottles at the police was supported by everybody, including his political enemies among the left and trade unions as in Norway they saw it as a question of principles and unity against repression and as such important.
During three years Friends of the Earth tried to get other organisations to make common statements and act but never succeded with one late exception. Attac never could decide themselves but liked to sit in the TV sofas and generally discuss the issue while SAC had become so scared that they almost forgot anything else than traditional trade unionism. The anarchists saw their picture of society as confirmed and saw no reason to fight repression jointly apart from the direct solidarity work with those in prison. And in general both SAC and the anarchists withdrew and many times were actively forced out of networks by the joint forces of the media, left party and the marxist leninist party.
The result of the shift among SAC syndicalists from general politics to trade unionism has caused a good focus on organizing paper less workers, new trade unionisms among precariat and the like and is certainly not only bad. Back to basics is sometimes a necessary tactic. But this means that SAC, especially in Malmö is against ESF and sees it as a reformistic tool in the hands of social democracy and Attac. Before the EU-summit in Gothenburg Friends of the Earth had similar problems with parts of the anti EU left who refused to cooperate with SAC and Friends of the Earth on an EU-critical plattform. But not all anarchists and syndicalists have the isolation position and maybe something can be done about it, especially of content as repression, righ wing extremism and similar issus which alterglobalisation actvists in CIS and CEE countries sees as very important comes to Malmö.
In Norway the developemnt was different. Also Oslo had its heyday antiglobalisation demonstration during av World Bank meeting in 2002 with almost as many participants as in Gothenburg. Afterwards there was also here as in Gothenburg a Reclaim the streets party with as many or more participants as in Gothenburg, 2 000. When the police started to shoot at demonstrators in Gothenburg at the street party at 10 o.clock at night the head of the World Bank event police force, also head of the Greenland district in Oslo, the most criminal district in Norway was seen going around in a light blue summer uniform skirt blowing soap bubbles together with the demonstrators. Not one incident apart for some small graffiti incident happened during the summit in Oslo in spite of that activists took the chance to occupy a house and other small things which the police considered as acceptable for the time being.
In Denmark it was a bit more tense but a lot more similar to Oslo than to Gothenburg. In Finland the social democratic foregin minister the day after the Gothenburg summit spoke to a large North-South development meeting in Helsinki heavily critizing the Gothenburg head of police. Finland is still somewhat old-fashioned society were trust among people is considered sometimes more important than media. The Foreign minister happened to be member of Attac and had recieved the sharp criticism from his fellow finnish Attac members who were present in Gothenburg so he was well informed through different ways and was as sharp as ever we who represented the EU-critical coalition in his criticism of the police.
In general Finland is a very consensusorinted society and any kind of violence is very badly seen against the police. When Finland had the EU-presidency another social democrat and long time alternative movement activist, Thomas Wallgren in Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam organised citizen watch groups that observed what the police were doing and immediately reported in media their views. This made the media picture completely different from that in Sweden after the EU-protests in Gothenburg. When we in Sweden approached the Left and Greens 2001 asking them to do what the left parties in Denmark and the socialdemocrats did in Finland later they had refused stating that they as political parties could not do such a thing as going to the spot and observing and then maybe criticising what the police were doing. The whole escalation against the EU-critical demonstrators during the Swedish EU-presidency started in Malmö against a demonstration close to were ESF will take place.
Against antiracist antifascist demonstrations there is also problems. There are clashes regularly between antiracists and right-wing extremists. Recently also clashes between radical trade union activists and police occur with a trial against many strike picket line activists from the SAC syndicalists in coming. Also the environmental movment has recently made actions against airport to protest against air traffic. This has been labelled attempt to sabotage air traffic and can give up to four years in jail. Actions took place this spring at Malmö airport and among the arrested dressed as a polar bear was Kajsa Lindqvist, chair of Friends of the Earth Sweden. The longest succesful occuaption of an airport a month ago toook place in Stokcholm in a protest against the deportation of a refugee. In general civil disobedience among different movement is rising although there has not been any larger actions recently. The police and courts have been fairly selective so far in their response, thus occupation of streets to protest against climate change has been fairly tolerant opposed by the authorities while actions against airports more strict. Climate actions regularly takes place in Malmö. Here when actions took place in 34 European countries at the international climate action day 8 the of December last year the most radical action was in Malmö when a street was occupied. These kind of actions started in 1969, expanded during the Interntional traffic revolution in 12 countries in 1970, had a peak in the late 1970s, restartaed again 1986 and reached a climax in the early 1990s and have now reemerged again. Recently for the first time since 1969 a car ran over one of the demonstrators and escaped but he was later caught.
Finally concerning terrorist laws there are some odd differences among the otherwise fairly similar Nordic countries. The first organisation in the Nordic countries to be convicted as a terrorist organisation according to the new laws were Greenpeace in Denmark. Greenpeace activsts had entered a corporate building and made a bannerdrop protesting against GMO. This verdict caused also mainstream environmental NGOs to react. The more known case is that against Oprör/Rebellion who publically collects money to the liberation movements PFLP and FARC labelled terrorists by EU. Due to that their spokesperson became ill the trial against the organisation was postponed.
What happened during this repression is of interest to understand Nordic political culture. The Danish case was brought to the public by a number of well-known Swedish figures supporting Oprör. This support was publicised by the Class struggle, a highly respected daily in Norway started by the marxist leninist maoist party who owned it only to some years ago and it is still at radical left daily. This was read by the minister in the red green government of Norway which made the government to state something in principle, which was that they refused to put up PFLP or FARC on their terrorist list, as they do not accept EU as their boss in these matters. Thus was what completly legal in Norway seemed completly a terrorist crime in Denmark.
Now another trial took place in Denmark against the firm printing PFLP and FARC t-shirts selling them and gving a part of the price to humanitarian actvities of these liberation organisations. This trial have just ended with an interesting result in the lowest court. The court thought about the defintions of murder and terrorism. It came to the conclusion that murdering people does not automatically mean that you are a terrorist (Also in Denmark groups killed German occupants and Danish “unpatriotic” people during WWII). Thus the printers were free (for the time being).
In Sweden the state is not as provocative as in Denmark, it does not make as extreme laws as in Denmark or does not use them afraid of causing problem to itself. So against internal opposition the escalation that according to similar lines already started in the late 1990s with Gothenburg 2001 as a climax before the WTC attack has not detoriated much further, it was fairly bad already. But against some people there has been severe actions in the new situation after September 2001. Two Egyptians were kidnapped at Bromma airport by CIA with the help of the swedish government to be transported to torture in Egypt against Swedish law. This has caused some debate for many years. Four Somali people were also put on economic blacklist by US-UN-EU implemented by the Swedish state, one of them a local social democratic politician. This caused not only debate but massive civil disobedience among many wellknown cultural persons that publically paid the somali persons money which was illegal. But the state did not react. Two curds have also been sentenced in a trial accused of supporting economically a curdish organisations accused of being terrorists in Iraq. So the Nordic countries do have its share of War on terror and the former social democratic minister of justice was one of the trongest supporters of stronger EU measures against personal integrity.
Ideological media situation and ideological authority
Another kind of repression is ideological. Mass media is more and more in the hands of commercial interest and were there is Public service media they adjust to the commercial media whoi tend to promote the interest of business. In Denmark there is no daily belonging to any of the three left parliamentarian parties, social democrats, socialist peoples party and Red-Green Alliance. All dailies are center or right wing with one exception, Arbejderen which is owned by a small marxist leninist party and run on very low-budget level with ca 4 000 copies. In the other Nordic countries the situation is a little bit better but not much, in Sweden also the environmental movement and in Finland the Green party have weeklies. In the field of magazines Denmark is also lacking any left-wing magazine of some size, there are very few and circulation is max 2 000, In Norway and esepcially Sweden the situation is a lot better and in Finland outstanding, the radical magazine Voima (Power) owned by a publishing house close to the Peace Committee that has a wide range of movements using the magazine has a circulation of 50 000 in a country with 5 million inhabitants.
Racism and xenofobia is spread among the population in about the same proportion in most Nordic countries according to European opinion polls. Yet the political expression is very different. During the Muhammed caricature crisis the Danish prime minister refused to meet with ambassors from Arab countries and the media made the issue a question of liberty of expression only. At the same time in all Nordic countries educational books are full with caricatures of semitic crooked nosed and full beared violent persons attacing the viewer. These antisemitic caricatures from the 1930s are presented as the racists political attack on a minority among the population, which they were. When exactly the same crooked noosed violent semitic caricature was used against the muslims it was seen as only a case od liberty of expression. This provoked muslims to react in Denmark and the rest of the muslim world. Millions participated in boycots against Danish companies, burned a Danish legation and demontstrated violently. Today Denmark is one of the most racist coutnries on Earth with the left Socialist Peoples party spearheading violent attacks on muslims freedom of expression adn the Danish islamic party. The party leader have bluntly stated that he wants them to be kicked out of the country, a statement that made his party so popular recently that they became bigger than the social democratic party in the opinion polls while the Red green Alliance with a muslim parliamentary candidate almost lots the election this autumn.
In Sweden a similar crisis were Muhammed was portrayed like a dog gave a somewhat different result. The Conservative prime minister immediatly went to the mosque in Stockholm stating that he understood that muslims were offended but that the law of freedom of expression allowed this. He also invited Swedisg muslim organisations and diplomats from many muslim countries to discuss the situation. The result was that soon Swedish muslim organisations protested against the offense against Muhammed but at the same time stated that protests had to be non-violent and no considerable protest wavwe against Sweden occured. The artist also made his reaction clera, he made a jewish pig caricature showing that he equally offended both muslims and jews and also Christians of necessary. Thus both Swedish politicians and artists reacted completly different from the Danish. The Danish prime minister could not go to any mosque as there is noone in Copenhagen, the closest regular mosque is in Malmö were it has been since 1970.
The racist or xenofobian parties have different positions in the Nordic countries. In Denmark the Danish Peoples party has a strong position and the Rigth wing government have to rely on their votes in parliament. In Norway the very populistic Progress party have a more vague ideology and have had great success among the voters. In Sweden right-wing populist parties who have existed on the parliamentary level in all the other Nprdic countries never have succeded with the short exception for the short-lived New democracy party that gained seats in 1991 and lost them again in 1994. But there is a party, Swedish Democrats with more than 3 percent of the votes in the last election. Their roots are in right-wing extremism, roots they carefully tries to wipe away. They are strongest in the country in Skåne were Malmö is the capital. Here they have amny seatsiuj in the regional parliament and in quite a few municipal parliaments as well.
A special swedish model for state ideological propaganda is an authority, Forum for living history, that at first was attempted to inform about the holocaust and promote tolerance. Some of the state propaganda against intolerance towards jews also has been directed against islamofobia. But also all kind of “extremism” is seen as guilty of crimes towards humanity, especially communism. This part of purpose of the authority has stadily been growing and is now a full scale country-wide offensive filled with notions stating that Lenin started concentraions camps killing 10 000 people already in the autumns 1918 while the concentrations camps set up by Americans in the Phillipines and by the british in South Africa had a very different purpose, to move the civlian population during times of war. The authority was a social democratic intiative and is still supported by many social democrats and the present center-right government. 400 historians have recently protested against the institution.
Those interested in repression issues can become active on the fse-esf represssion email list., Subscirbe at www.fse.esf.org Nordic organisations interested in cooperation
Tord Björk. Coordinator EU Committeee, Friends of the Earth Sweden