Although the accession of Croatia to the European Union is a political act with numerous consequences, there was no serious discussion about accession either before the referendum nor afterwards. But it is not news that the European Union is facing its biggest crisis since it was created. It is at the same time an economic, financial, social and ideological crisis of the project. Across the continent, instead of solidarity we are witnessing the dictatorship of the financial sector, new austerity measures and the rise of the extreme right. Within the last few months, new austerity measures and structural adjustments, changes to labor laws and privatizations have been the cause of mass protests on the streets of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Romania and Hungary. The European Union’s internal turmoil as well as the economic, financial, social and ideological crisis of the European project are the main topics of this year’s Subversive Forum.
The recent European protests have not managed to reverse the balance of power and stop the neoliberal turn that rapidly destroys the legacy of the welfare state and radically changes the European project. The main objective of the Subversive Forum is to create a common space for a united struggle that will involve all social forces, from ordinary citizens, activists, unions and scholars to political representatives.
Through a critical examination of Europe’s current crisis, the Subversive Forum will try to outline realistic possibilities for its transformation and the creation of another political, social and economic project across the Old Continent. The international conference of the Forum, "The Future of Europe" will be held from May 13th to May 19th in the Cinema Europe (Kino Europa). In addition to regular guests such as Slavoj Zizek, Tariq Ali, Gianni Vattimo, Gayatri Spivak, and Samir Amin, leading intellectuals of our time such as Stéphane Hessel, Michael Hardt, Saskia Sassen, Renata Salecl, Christian Marazzi, Bernard Cassen, Costas Douzinas, Eric Toussaint and others have confirmed their participation. Every evening from 19.00 until 23.00 they will present keynote lectures and participate in round-table discussions on the possible futures of Europe.
The debates at the Subversive Forum will start everyday at 10am. The first major debate will be dedicated to The Crisis of Europe (Monday and Tuesday, May 14-15, ZKM theatre). The panels will focus on the general problems in Europe, and those particular to the European Union and will examine the causes of the present situation. When austerity is imposed from above by technocratic governments and when the EU, IMF and WTO advocate punitive measures for European citizens for decades to come, resistance often becomes the only option available. But in what forms does resistance manifest itself? What are its political and social motivations and consequences? The forum will also address the often-asked question ‘Is another Europe possible?’ What is the role of the European left in making this a reality? Besides fighting for social justice, should the Left develop an alternative political system based on direct democratic practices and people’s self-government? Is this a radical democratic utopia, or an element that can rejuvenate existing representative democracies? Europe has been effectively divided into the core and the periphery. But is the periphery condemned to second-rate status or might it crucially influence the continent? How we should account for a widespread despair in the periphery and the parallel resurgence of new progressive social actors? These issues will be discussed, among others, by Samir Amin, Eric Toussaint, Bernard Cassen, G. M. Tamas, Walter Baier, Christophe Ventura, Haris Golemis and Costas Douzinas.
The critical reflections on contemporary societies continue on Wednesday (May 17th) when the emphasis will be put on The Struggle for the Commons. The debates will focus on the increasing devastation of the common good in contemporary societies. They will examine the logic of neoliberal capitalism and its consequences for cities and urban environment but will also try to discuss possibilities for resistance to these changes as well as for a different type of city. Any struggle for the commons cannot neglect the pressing question of land and water exploitation. How are global issues that affect humanity as a whole played out in conflict with global capitalism and short-term profit extraction? Who actually profits from common resources? On the other hand, who profits from copyright laws and how should digital commons be defended against assaults on Internet freedoms and exchanges such as ACTA? All these issues and much more will be debated by Michael Hardt, Alan Toner, Ugo Mattei, Giovanni Allegretti, Viond Raina, Jean Marie Perbost, Geert de Pauw, and others.
On Thursday and Friday (May 17-18, ZKM theatre) the Subversive Forum is hosting the first Balkan Forum. Its primary aim is to bring together the most relevant progressive organisations and movements from across the Balkans. During two days of intensive discussions more than 40 organisations and unions will analyse the current social struggles in the Balkans, identify the neuralgic spots of the widespread crisis of both the neo-liberal economic order and representative democracy in this region, and, finally, try to define possible strategies of resistance and political action. This gathering of a significant number of the progressive actors in the post-socialist Balkans might constitute a first step towards the establishment of a platform for future cooperation between these actors and for their inclusion in wider European and global networks.
For one week in May, Zagreb, a town placed almost exactly on the EU’s shifting border, will become both a centre of critical thought and a laboratory of possible political, social and economic alternatives.
The Subversive Forum in Zagreb is included in the list of the World Social Forum’s events for 2012.