8. The Challenge of Diversity: The Social Forum Movement, 2001-2005

Seeking positive solutions to problems identified by alter-globalisation activists, a wide range of organisations participated in organising the first World Social Forum in Brazil in January 2001. A self-proclaimed ‘open space’ for dialogue to prove that ‘another world is possible’, this massive gathering provided world-wide inspiration for hundreds of local groups. While not as numerous in the UK as other European countries, local social forums sprang up in part as a channel for the energy and new-found resources of the anti-war movement. As such, the social forums retained the multi-faceted character of the anti-war movements, with strong representation from a wide array of political positions.

This chapter is, in part, the story of Sheffield Social Forum (SSF) in particular. Here we see, represented in microcosm, many of the debates also being held at national, regional and even the global level. These debates are hardly played out on a simply local level, however, as SSF engaged in UK-wide and European networks of local social forums seeking to influence the direction of the third edition of the European Social Forum. Again we see the utility of the three frames identified throughout this thesis in aiding understanding of the thoughts and actions of significant groups of actors contesting neo-liberal globalisation and the idea of the social forum itself. This chapter raises the possibility that the self-consciously ‘open space’ of the social forums have enabled a new combination of ideas to come to the fore, one which draws on both revolutionary socialism and radical liberalism.

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