The European Social Consulta

office at office at
Thu Nov 28 12:59:16 GMT 2002

A new activist spectre is haunting capitalist Europe. It is called the
European Social Consulta.

This activist network has become one of the most significant focal
points of contemporary radicalism. By taking a stance of "distance with
dialogue" towards all reformist and traditional political groups, the
ESC has filled a void in the European grassroots activist arena. From
the other side of both reformism and irresponsible radicalism, this
network has displayed extraordinary maturity, adopting the attitude that
in order to change the world, we have to first of all perceive it
objectively. This means avoiding revolutionary romanticism, more often
detrimental than useful, and engaging in radical, rational social
critique, as well as the construction of alternatives. The European
Social Consulta represents a shift in focus of activist thinking and
action away from pure opposition towards constructive proposition. It
was conceived as a complement to the Peoples Global Action which
centers, first and foremost, on direct action. The Consulta seeks to
shift this focus towards the construction of alternatives, that is, to
the "transformation of society". According to the ESC Consultation
guide: "We propose that European Social Consulta revolve around one
major goal -- to transform society. In order to achieve this goal we
propose three broad objectives: 

Deepen the analysis and critique of the current economic, political and
social system, and construct alternatives and proposals for
transformation. This will be achieved through the creation of a space at
the European level that integrates the vision and actions of the largest
number of people and sectors possible who share some basic common

Strengthen and widen the European social fabric that is critical of the
current system. The European Social Consulta should reinforce the work
of local groups and networks, and connect them to struggles at the
global level. This connection will crystallize in a network-based
organizing system that will be shaped by the grassroots and will
function in a participatory, horizontal and decentralized manner, in
both decision-making and implementation. 

Provide social movements and society in general with instruments for the
expression of their will; so we can all participate in the construction
of our own future. These instruments will be, in and of themselves, a
critique of the absolute lack of democracy in the current political,
economic and social system....." 


An important principal and tendency of the European Social Consulta is
the maintainance of plurality and constructive critical distance at
whatever cost. However, in order to protect this experiment from
traditionalist or dogmatic interpretations, certain basic hallmarks that
seek to guard this distance have been established:

A clear rejection of capitalist globalisation and the lack of democracy
and grassroots participation associated with it. 

A rejection of all forms and systems of domination and discrimination,
including - but not limited to - patriarchy, racism, the existence of
social classes and religious fundamentalism of any creed. 

A call for critical reflection, debate, direct action and the
development of alternatives to the current system as tools for social

An affirmation of direct and participatory democracy, as well as the
capacity of all human beings to create the world in which they want to
live and to actively participate in the decisions that most affect them. 

An organizing philosophy based on decentralization, horizontalism,
autonomy and the will to coordinate. 

"This is the central aim of the European Social Consulta: To become a
tool that helps to promote, visualize and articulate the meaning and the
practice of democracy from the grassroots level in Europe, through
already existing struggles but, above all, by opening new spaces. How
can we achieve this? This is the role of the Internal Consulta."

The so-called "Internal Consultation" consists of a process of contact
and discussion among movements and organizations via a series of
questions conceived to spark debate. This will allow the ESC to
articulate and develop an understanding of the various reactions, ideas,
proposals and affinities toward the project. It will also serve to
define the stages of the process itself.

A key objective of the internal consultation is to ensure the active
participation of a broad range of geographic regions and social
movements in the definition of the process itself. That is to say that
these initial steps of the Consulta aim to be highly participatory and
transparent, emerging from a process of debate and consensus with the
equal participation of all the groups involved.  The proposed process
for the European Social Consulta is divided into four components. 

One concrete proposal is to hold the first mass social consultation
coordinated at the European level so as to coincide with the European
elections in 2004. This would aim to be an exercise in participatory
democracy that questions the current system, seeking the participation
and opinion of the broader population.

The so-called "promoter groups" have a key role in such a process. They
are the groups and collectives that get involved in the initial stages
of the process, encouraging the creation of other promoter groups,
making contact with the networks and collectives working in their
region, and keeping them informed; generally fulfilling the task of
promoting and extending the Consulta. 

The first important meeting of the promoter groups was held a few weeks
ago in Barcelona (October 19-20, 2002). It was agreed that another
promoter conference would take place in February 2003, and that a wider
"encuentro", the First European Gathering, should take place in April

The very conception of the European Social Consulta has an interesting
history. Its origin is in a Spanish experiment known as the Social
Consulta for the abolition of external debt. In 2000, the consulta for
the abolition of the external debt turned into a vibrant and dynamic
participatory exercise, successfully developing a working network and
creating a social fabric at the local level. Without relying on any one
structure or acronym, 500 assemblies were formed in 500 communities and
neighbourhoods, around 10,000 people participated in the co-ordination
of an assembly-based structure which led to the participation of more
than 1.000.000 people voting 97% in favour of the abolition of the
external debt. The Consulta was soon outlawed by the state judicial
authorities, which turned it into a substantial experience in civil
disobedience and rebellion through direct democracy.

Based on the outcome of this Consulta, the activists who participated in
it proposed the continuation of this encouraging process in another form
that would encompass all of Europe, drawing on a variety of libertarian
impulses and inspirations in an attempt to develop a plausible
anti-authoritarian and encompassing alternative to capitalism and
contemporary capitalist democracies. Such impulses and inspirations
include, to name only a few, the 1936 Revolution, the Consulta Popular
de Brazil, Indymedia, the Argentine Assemblies, Marinaleda Andalucia,
the Social forums and global action days, India Adivasis, the practice
of rural communities, inquiesta operaia, and zapatismo... In my opinion
networks like the PGA and the ESC constitute the very focal point of
contemporary radicalism. Its most exciting part. 

The movement against corporate globalisation is on the right track, in
spite of all the continuing problems and confusion. These new radicals
are becoming a most impressive part of the forces of globalisation from
below, by connecting theory with practice and responsibility with
strategies of social change, and by developing a unique internationalism
and equally unique syncretism of radical proposals and ideas.

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