Since the Seattle demonstrations of 1999, a wave of protest has emerged worldwide against the effects of neo-liberalism. First labelled “anti-globalisation” then “alternative globalisation”, the movement has found that its principles are increasingly echoed by other resistance groups, international and local alike. The birth of the alternative globalisation movement in Turkey is one such example. In this essay, we will explore the national political culture of Turkish social movements in relation to Turkish alternative globalisation, and how this national culture relates to the global political culture hostile to neo-liberalism that was generated at the World Social Forum. We will examine the interaction between distinct political cultures that experiment a more or less global vision of social and political struggle. Using Turkey as a model, we will analyse the connections between initiatives put forth by the local, national and world social forums. By studying the history of Turkish protest groups within the alternative globalisation nebula and by charting the participation of these groups in social forums, we will also examine the intricate relationships between these resistance groups and the mutual effects of such relationships: the subsequent transfer of knowledge and organisational models as well as specific repertoires of activity bound to their various political cultures.

Bio note

Barış Gençer Baykan is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Paris-1 and the University of Lausanne. His research pertains to social movements and in particular, to the alternative globalisation movement. He participated in a quantitative survey conducted by the Universities of Paris-1, Lausanne and Geneva during the anti-G8 movement in Evian in June 2003 and the European Social Forum 2003.

E-mail: bgbaykan@yahoo.com

Gülçin Erdi Lelandais is a PhD candidate at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, France, and is a specialist on transnational social movements and globalisation. Among her recent publications: “Alternative globalisation movements and social capital” (Journal of Civil Society, 2004) and “La société civile turque dans le défi de l’altermondialisation” (Cahiers d’études sur la méditerranée orientale et le monde turco-iranien, forthcoming).

E-mail: Gulcin.Erdi-Lelandais@ehess.fr


A new era began with the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the time, various historical experts were quick to announce “the end of history”. Given that globalisation was the driving force of that period, the nation-state had supposedly lost a good deal of its power to transnational companies and to globalisation in general. After all, international institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank Group, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) were poised to impose neo-liberal politics on a global scale. Neo-liberal objectives would lead to the erosion of public structures, the loss of certain state functions, to political crisis. The predominance of markets at the cost of social rights would be an inevitable process that the citizens of the world would have had little chance of eluding. Until that fateful day: November 30, 1999 in Seattle. A large coalition of civil society organisations protested against the General Assembly of the WTO. Tens of thousands of protestors had but one objective: to prevent the “Millennium Round” of trade talks, which was aimed at promoting free trade to an even greater extent while privatising public services and eliminating subsidies and agricultural aid. The common reaction to such a possibility was quite clear in the slogan brandished by ecologists, workers, and farmers: “Our world is not for sale”. The participants in this great mobilising effort and the themes they championed laid the first foundation for what was to become the diverse, worldwide battle against globalisation as well as against everything that produces exploitation, inequality, domination, militarism, and commercialisation of human activities.

Since the demonstrations in Seattle, activists from all over the world have not missed an opportunity to protest at the summits of international organisations (the IMF, the World Bank, etc.). They have organised protest movements in every city where major economic and political leaders convene (Davos, Prague, Nice, Gothenburg, Genoa), thus sparking global resistance to neo-liberalism. This activism on a global scale is certainly not without precedent: at the end of the 19th century, unionists, anarchists, and pacifists also organised themselves internationally (Scholte, 2003, p. 31). However, the originality of the current movement comes from the fact that opponents to globalisation have had to adapt themselves to globalisation’s various forms. Like opponents of capitalism, the opponents of globalisation have had to attain international status and maintain flexibility while adopting a structured network of small, inter-connected units (non-government organisations and associations with diverse objectives, unions, political parties, etc.). Through this structured yet flexible network, they manage to coordinate “projects” such as counter-summits or protest demonstrations efficiently and within a limited amount of time (Boltanski & Chiapello, 1999; Mathieu, 2001, p. 17).

In a certain sense, the birth of social forums has changed the aim of the alternative globalisation movement on an international scale. The culture of pure protest has given way to a multicultural, multidimensional system of debate; the ability to forge alternative propositions has been reinforced. Such forums are no longer ineffectual. The World Social Forum (WSF), for example, creates the identity and the political culture that incites volunteers to come together against neo-liberalism by connecting formerly distinct resistance groups. For this reason, we consider forums a kind of “spill-over” of the alternative globalisation movement. Social forums have introduced the principle of common work, of organisation and reflection on global questions, which was not initially the case in the rallies against financial and political institutions just after the Seattle protests of 1999.

The influence of the WSF on this political culture can be observed at every level, from the national to local. However, we should also emphasise that while the WSF has influenced the birth and development of such organisations, the interaction has been reciprocal; the Forum has been nourished and transformed as well.

Our objective in this article is to explore the national political culture of Turkish social movements as it relates to the global political culture hostile to neo-liberalism that first appeared within the WSF. By studying the history of the Turkish protest groups within the alternative globalisation nebula and by charting the participation of these groups in social forums, we may better detail the intricate relationships between these resistance groups and the impact the WSF has had on these social movements: the subsequent transfer of knowledge and organisational models as well as specific repertoires of action.

The emergence of the Turkish alternative globalisation movement

The effects of globalisation and the world economic system were not immediately felt in Turkey until the end of the 1990s. Since national issues commanded most of the attention at the time, social movements tended to use the classic union model of strikes and demonstrations against the government without any international dimension or particular interest in the social conditions and politics of other countries.

This highly national focus had been the principal characteristic of social movements in Turkey since the early 1960s. Traumatised by three violent revolutions in 1960, 1971, and 1980 – events that deserve a far more detailed analysis than is possible here –, Turkish society withdrew into itself and the culture of protest was limited to leftist and extreme leftist groups. The result was a marginalisation of social movements in Turkey which, in effect, essentially split them from the popular masses.

Ironically, this marginalisation of social movements began to change due to the effects of globalisation: neo-liberal politics had devastating effects in Turkey as in many other countries. 1994, a year of severe economic crisis in Turkey, brought the first tide of discontent toward the IMF and with it, the first analyses of globalisation and the international working class. There were numerous strikes in the public sector, particularly in the steel and petrochemical industries, and worker protests in large cities like Istanbul and Ankara.

The relationship between Turkish alternative globalisation and the international movement – and the resulting diffusion of new political ideas – solidified due to the alternative globalisation movements in Seattle, Prague, and Genoa and the regional and global social forums.

The events in Seattle that marked the beginning of the alternative globalisation movement on a global scale are equally revealing of the emergence of the alternative globalisation movement in Turkey. The discussions concerning the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) provoked a reaction within certain unions like DISK (Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey). In 1998, these unionists decided to create an “anti-MAI” working group to oppose the effects of MAI and of globalisation. One of the emblematic figures in this group, Gaye Yılmaz, left for Seattle with several other unionists in November 1999 to better understand the dynamics of alternative globalisation in its earliest stages. Since then, he and his associates have published several works on the subject.1 Their aim has always been to inform and educate others, rather than to participate in mobilising the masses.2 A necessary service, since, at first, no one took the intentions of alternative globalisation seriously. Traditional leftist groups like Halkevleri, EMEP (the Labour Party), and TKP (the Communist Party of Turkey) were seeking purely national solutions to their struggles: “Bizim kurtuluşumuz ancak bizimle olacaktır!” – “Only we can achieve our liberation!”. They had little regard for international protest demonstrations or foreign activist groups. General awareness of and desire to join the international movement did not appear until just before the mobilisation effort in Prague in 2000.3 Only at that point did many organisations acknowledge the need for all social resistance groups to establish strong ties with each other against neo-liberal globalisation, and to establish strong alliances with even the alternative globalisation movement in order to find appropriate solutions.4 A call from Trotskyite groups such as Antikapitalist and DSIP (the Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party) led to the forming of a new group in Prague containing union representatives like Gaye Yılmaz, professional members of chamber, and certain parties like the ÖDP (the Freedom and Solidarity Party). They launched “the Ankara initiative against globalisation” with organisations such as “DISK, Medya-Sen? (Union of Press Workers), Tüm Sosyal Sen (Union of Workers in the Social Sector), KESK (Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions), TMMOB (Chamber of Mining Engineers of Turkey), TTB (the Turkish Doctors Union), the Human Rights Association, Halkevleri (popular centres), the Ecology Group, the Free University, the student unions from the Technical University of the Middle East, Peasants of Bergama, the Ankara Theatre, the Artists of Cansenligi, and the student group from the University of Ankara and Kaldıraç (the Lever)” (Uzun, 2001, p. 45). This new coalition organised a demonstration of around 500 people in Ankara in 2000 against the IMF representative, Mr Cotarelli, and a demonstration of 1000 people in solidarity with the protestors in Prague. From that moment on, the movement began to gather speed. During the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001, a Turkish group of 30-40 people again participated in the demonstrations. On the bask of this mobilisation, a group of activists in Prague decided to create the Istanbul Social Forum (ISF) in April 2002. A working group prepared a file on social forums and decided to issue a call to the civil society organisations and unions poised to join the initiative (Sensever, 2003). The Forum organised its first meeting in June 2002 at the invitation of SODEV (the Social Democracy Foundation) and from that moment on, has participated in every aspect of the preparation for the European Social Forums (ESFs) in Florence in 2003 and in Paris in 2004. Several Turkish contributors participated in the seminars and in the plenaries of the Forum with 80-100 activists hailing from Turkey.5

In addition to these mobilisations, after Genoa, initiatives resumed at national and local levels, this time focusing on the possibility of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the signatures of more than 170 civil society associations and organisations, the “anti-war platform” was created at the beginning of 2002, thereby kicking off many anti-war demonstrations in major Turkish cities as well as an international conference held on September 14 and 15 in Istanbul. It was only after a large-scale action on December 1 2002, however, that the platform transformed itself into a “coordination against the war in Iraq”. From that moment on, an intensive national effort, supported by almost every civil society organisation in the country, led up to the massive demonstration in Ankara against the occupation in Iraq. The demonstration brought together between 80,000 and 100,000 people on the same day as the Parliamentary vote on sending Turkish soldiers into Iraq. Coincidence or causality, the vote was finally rejected by Parliament and the victory galvanised the movement. After the success of this rally in May 2003, several unions, professional chambers, and the ÖDP created Küresel BAK or the Coalition for Peace and Global Justice, a name inspired by the title of a petition circulating on the internet, launched by the British intellectual, Tariq Ali. The aim of this group was to coordinate all alternative globalisation movements, including the anti-war movement. This ambitious objective, however, provoked a sudden and negative reaction within the movement: new tensions between militant Kurds and Turks. The initiative was eventually accused of dividing the movement and of weakening the anti-war effort.

Despite these problems, it is most interesting to note the active participation in all these demonstrations of Muslim associations like Mazlum-Der? and Özgür-Der, which proved willing to work with leftist groups that largely opposed the war and globalisation.

The evolution of the Turkish movement across social forums

When the social forum process started, it was little known in Turkey. Those who were informed were, in the majority of cases, unionists and economists already in contact with the international network. As in Seattle, their participation in the first Forum was on an individual basis, without real support from civil society organisations or associations.

The situation has somewhat changed since the third summit of the WSF and certainly since the fourth in 2004 in which a large number Turkish social movements and unions participated (e.g. KESK, DISK). These groups even organised meetings on-site concerning local issues like worker’s rights, human rights, agricultural problems, privatisation, and the dominant position of foreign companies in Turkey in relation to globalisation. Turkish participation was not uniform however. Certain political groups with a more Marxist-Leninist? slant preferred to attend the alternative gathering, Mumbai Resistance, which was critical of the general social forum system. Mumbai Resistance aims to construct a solid, global anti-imperialist movement and concentrates on the working class struggle against globalisation and imperialist wars. Contrary to the WSF, Mumbai Resistance views political struggles in an anti-imperialist context and, as a result, attracts only a limited number of social movements. The Turkish groups at Mumbai Resistance were not engaged in the alternative globalisation movement in Turkey; they preferred to associate themselves with political forums in the tradition of the old left.

A series of regional, national, and local social forums has been organised since the first WSF in Porto Alegre in 2001. Working autonomously, although subscribing to the WSF Charter of Principles, these forums allow civil society organisations to gather and debate the ills of neo-liberal globalisation on many levels.

We should note here that regional social forums act as intermediaries between global and national forums. Whether from geographical or cultural proximity, movements at the local and national levels have chosen to develop relationships with their closest counterparts. This is why the alternative globalisation movement in Turkey has contributed relatively little to the WSFs. The intermediary role that the ESF plays between the WSF’s political experience and the recent activism of social and political movements in Turkey also deserves particular mention. A first contact took place at the preparatory assembly of the first ESF summit in Thessalonika, on July 12-14 2002. For the Turkish alternative globalisation movement, this meeting had a threefold objective: to encourage the widest possible participation of Turkish civil society organisations in the ESF; to develop ties with the movements participating in the ESF; and finally to promote the establishment of the ISF as a coordinating body. This last point was new element not just for Turkish but also for foreign social movements.

Turkish political culture did not welcome the idea of a “an open horizontal space for movements, unions, NGOs, initiatives and associations of all kinds, each engaged in their way, in their own sector and using their own methods” (Whitaker, 2003). Moreover, since the 1970s, leftist political forces in Turkey have been known for numerous instances of division and subdivision. Pre-existing connections at the regional and international levels had been limited to unionist and political activity. This absence of interaction at the national level is perhaps partly explained by the late arrival in Turkey of the transnational NGOs; which were involved in the original international protest movements that acted as precursors to the alternative globalisation movement (thus, Greenpeace was only established in 1997, and Amnesty International in 2002, after an initiative that lasted eight years.)

From this standpoint, the ISF constituted a real foundation in the history of Turkish social and political struggles. It is a collective of organisations that had never before succeeded in collaborating beyond staging the occasional demonstration or traditional rally. The ISF plays the role of coordinator to the Turkish alternative globalisation movement and manages its relationship with the social forums. For example, the ISF and its constituencies played a decisive role at the time when the anti-war movement was gaining momentum. The anti-war movement, at its height, consisted of around 200 organisations from all areas, a collective never before seen in the Turkish history of social and political struggles. Moreover, the campaigns that organised the ISF connection to the ESF and WSF were crucial for spreading the interests and concepts of the alternative globalisation movement.6

The creation of the ISF was due not simply to openness to new ideas and ways of doing things but further to a desire to build a mutual understanding of diverse local experiences and to join the global movement. Thus, the construction of the ISF and of the great anti-war coalition were the results of internal as well as external dynamics and a complex system of relationships acting on various levels within each movement.

The ISF, as established in the framework that has just been summarised, is conducive to an autonomous local structure that is capable of putting together a national movement like the anti-war effort, but that is also capable of inciting local movements to join transnational networks. As a result, the participation of Turkish social movements became denser and more varied. The ESF in Paris in 2003 was an example. ISF delegates were present at all the preparatory assemblies of the 2003 ESF and, as a result, were allotted a quota of speakers and moderators at the plenaries and seminars. At the demonstration during the closing ceremony of the ESF, a march formed under the banner of the ISF.

The integration of the Turkish social movement in the social forums was not only due to its participation in organised rallies. In fact, the movement also began to take initiatives in the organisation of this complicated event.

The third preparatory assembly of the ESF took place in Istanbul on April 16-18 2004. The purpose of the assembly was to make certain major decisions about the Forum, choose the issues for debate, and select the speakers. Close observation of the assembly points again to the role of the ESF in relation to local and global movements. The choice of Istanbul for the meeting was significant, not least because it offered the Turkish movement its first opportunity to achieve visibility and to familiarise itself with the international movement. It was also an opportunity to promote its “anti-NATO, anti-Bush” platform for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit planned in Istanbul on June 27. The meeting facilitated a stronger connection with the European and global movements. After all, Turkish social movements were finally focusing on Turkish issues at an international event and familiarising themselves with their foreign counterparts. The assembly was successful among Turks to the extent that they now increasingly look to these kinds of international assemblies as platforms through which to share their ideas while bypassing the national state apparatus without the latter feeling threatened. Ironically, the success of such a gathering has also revived debate within the very same Turkish associations about the necessity of their own existence, given that European and other examples are now before their eyes.

Local initiatives as outlets for the WSF spirit

The WSF is a model for all civil society organisations that want to promote comparable initiatives and it is not an exaggeration to state that the very existence of the WSF has a motivating effect at the local level. It is through the WSF model and structure that local, national and regional forums are educated and formed.

Today, there are different local implications attached to the practices of social forums. Inspired by the political culture of the WSF, an independent list, under the slogan “Another Marmaris is possible”, ran in Marmaris at the March 2003 local elections. This initiative promoted a democratic and participatory conception of the local administration, necessarily removed from the convictions of traditional political parties. The accent was put on social issues relating to “civil servants and pensioners, the poor and social funds, sustainable tourism, the rights of local inhabitants, the city assembly, and worker self-management”.

An initiative proposed by the Izmir Social Forum has also been in process for several months. Among its activities was a demonstration against the representatives of the IMF, the World Bank Group and the OECD, who were guests of the fourth Turkish National Economic Congress. (It is important to note here that Turkey experienced a severe economic crisis in 2001 under an IMF structural adjustment programme.) The Izmir initiative also attempted to establish ties between the Mediterranean Social Forum, the ESF, and local movements, while remaining a pillar of the alternative globalisation movement. One of the leaders of the alternative globalisation movement, José Bové (former spokesperson of the Confédération paysanne in France), came to Diyarbakir for the gathering of the Kurdish new year (Newroz) in March 2004. In a newspaper interview, Bové discussed the importance that he attributed to the presence of delegates from the Kurdish movement at the WSF and ESF, and then proposed to organise a “Mesopotamian Social Forum” so that the people of that region could discuss their own problems (according to the account given in the pro-Kurdish daily Ülkede Özgür Gündem, March 25 2003).

The city of Porto Alegre has symbolic value as a reference to participatory democracy, which was echoed in commemoration of a local struggle in the small Northern Turkish town of Fatsa, the then Mayor of which initiated a model of participatory management at the end of the 1970s. Thus, “Fatsa Alegre”, a play on words using the names of the two localities, appeared in the independent review Postexpress (n° 11, March 15, 2002). The democratic and participatory tradition in Fatsa was smashed by the army and the police several months before the coup d’État in 1980.

The limits of the WSF’s “open space”

The WSF may be misconstrued as homogenous due to its singular resolve to combat neo-liberal globalisation. However, a closer examination of its constituencies, in their national and local contexts, quickly dispels any perception of uniformity. Protesting against neo-liberal globalisation does not necessarily mean the same thing for all the movements within it, each of which is affected by a specific dimension of globalisation.

It is this analytical framework that points to the political culture of the WSF as an interaction between global and local movements. No doubt the issues and topics dealt with have global significance, but they are always explained in reference to local examples. We can therefore say that the WSF is the environment in which abstract global problems become concrete.

The political culture of the WSF has greatly influenced the emergence of local forums, but its catalytic role has also been transformative. Such has been the case in Turkey, where the Forum has affected the organisation, cooperation, and mobilisation of the local forums.

Let us explore how these changes came about. Turkish social movements initially had a centralised organisation under the political guidance of their leaders. Given that the politically unaffiliated were almost entirely absent from the proceedings, political discourse, especially from the radical left, tended to dominate behaviour. Thus, political organisations began to use the social movements as unofficial recruiting grounds to find new followers. The social movements had always stayed relatively ineffectual, however, due to the abrupt political changes in Turkey, such as the coups d’État, which effectively cut communication between the generations. Unlike the student movements of the 1960s and 1970s, for example, dynamic forces in civil society could not effect genuine change in Turkish society. This all began to change when the alternative globalisation movement and the culture of the WSF began to influence the organisation of Turkish forums, particularly following the creation of the ISF. Many activists now understand the organisation of a social movement as an opportunity to exchange ideas and to reach a wider audience in order to increase the impact of alternative globalisation ideas in Turkey. A movement is now a medium in which to spread the ideas culled from resistance efforts against neo-liberalism, nuclear armament, employment practices influenced by foreign companies, as well from the solidarity campaigns with oppressed peoples such as the Palestinians, the Kurds and the peoples of India.7 Moreover, the formerly exclusively national pattern of organisation is now opening up to international connections that can provide external support for the movement.

In terms of cooperation, the alternative globalisation process has helped establish communication among many associations, groups, and organisations that had never previously been in contact with each other. This was notably the case during the anti-war effort, when more than 180 organisations banded together to make up a Coalition against the war in Iraq. Today, even the most historically rigid organisations (the Turkish Communist Party, the Maoist groups, and social centres) need to take the debate culture on board in order to organise a demonstration. They debate and exchange ideas, even if the process is not always problem-free. They have had to learn to work together and understand that local and national problems are no longer separate from international problems. These Turkish groups now establish permanent contacts with their foreign counterparts so as to be better informed of the problems they face abroad.

In terms of mobilisation, we furthermore observe an evolution in the repertoires and resources of Turkish social activism. Traditional mobilisation, which was the sole preserve of the unions, is now organised by “collectives” composed of many diverse associations and groups: student collectives, associations of women or homosexuals, environmental groups such as Greenpeace and the Green Party, political parties, professional bodies, foundations, etc. These mobilising efforts, which are linked to alternative globalisation, reorganise and regroup those who are struggling against the devastating events of neo-liberalism without falling into the traps of nationalism or anti-globalisation. Indeed, this shift has had interesting consequences for the development of the Turkish movement. Under the more or less direct influence of this debate, the left has split and a fraction has linked up with the ultranationalists. The latter, who consider themselves opponents of alternative globalisation, accuse the left of collaborating with foreigners and exposing Turkey’s internal problems to outsiders. Ultranationalists are opposed not to capitalism or neo-liberalism, but to globalisation, especially cultural globalisation. It is also interesting to note the growing relationship between the alternative globalisation movement and “Muslim” associations in Turkey. The quotation marks are meant to show that these organisations are not fundamentalist or Islamic in nature, but legal associations focused on the status of women, and especially concerned with supporting veiled women excluded from university. These associations, which also provide assistance for the poor or food distribution in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, have participated actively in the debate, as seen during the preparatory assembly for the fourth ESF. For them, the forum has provided an opportunity to make themselves heard on a global level, an impossibility at the national level because of the extreme secular character of the Turkish state.

Changes in forms of mobilisation relate also to the repertoire used by demonstrators. The festive side of alternative globalisation gatherings appears to have influenced demonstrations in Turkey. The classic protest march with slogans is increasingly giving way to creative attractions with numerous groups offering theatrical games, puppets, and dance. For example, during the demonstration against NATO in June 2004, certain groups made puppets of President Bush, while others performed folk dances against NATO violence.

However, the interaction between the local and global movements is not always problem-free. North-South? relations have also had effects on the organisation of the social forums, as Turkish activists can attest. The Turks had some difficulties during the preparatory assembly of the ESF, for example. Despite the good will of the organisers, organisations and associations from Northern countries felt more legitimate than those coming from the South. Given their wider experience, these Northern groups felt more qualified to organise and deal with various subjects concerning the environment, women’s rights or anti-nuclear campaigns. ISF activists were also witnesses to the difficulty involved in convincing the organisers of the ESF to base the preparatory assembly in Turkey. “They explained to us that the Turkish movement needed first to prove itself within the alternative globalisation movement in order to organise such an event”, as ISF spokesman Levent Sensever put it to us in an interview. There is, therefore, a centre-periphery relationship within the international alternative globalisation movement. There were two areas of implicit controversy in this case: power relations between the various Northern and Southern groups and the debate among Northern groups over the structure and themes to address at the ESF. Furthermore, the preparatory assemblies of forums sometimes transform themselves into lobbying spaces where all participating countries try to promote their own centres of interest and of discussion. During the ESF preparatory assembly in Istanbul, we observed that the activists from Eastern European countries made enormous efforts to have greater representation within the plenaries. To this extent, the social forums need to devote more attention to representation and fair participation of all their constituencies if they are seriously to carry the idea of “open space” into battle against the spirit of Davos.

The credibility of alternative globalisation at the national level

Certain Turkish political and social forces view the alternative globalisation movements and social forums with some suspicion, a perception very much in keeping with the transnational ambition of the process. The highly national character of Turkish politics makes the connection between the national and global very difficult and the lack of coordination between various national sectors prevents mobilisation at the international level. Coming back from the first ESF, Turkish activists were branded “tourists” or “elite dissidents” because they protested beyond the borders of the country, without taking national conflicts into consideration. Those who remain sceptical towards the global movement probably fear that the global perspective will supplant the national perspective; they deny the possibility of a credible structure existing on different levels. In fact, the global dimension of current conflicts necessitates global demands that risk destabilising a traditional left built on national concerns.

New repertoires that are no longer in keeping with traditional politics also create controversy, particularly concerning the festive side of anti-war demonstrations. The emergence of flexible coordination structures, with little hierarchy (and that even make room for individuals alongside organisations), goes against the grain of traditional organisation-centred norms.

Conclusion Turkish alternative globalisation, as it has participated in transnational mobilisation and regional and global social forums, has joined international alternative globalisation. An analysis of an emerging social forum system at the national level (the ISF) and of local initiatives gives insight into the interaction between the different political cultures that the social forums bring together.

By examining Turkey in reference to the political culture of the WSF, we not only understand the originality of each component in the alternative globalisation movement but also gain some insight into the future of the movement. The alternative globalisation movement as well as the WSF are not homogenous bodies. They express rather the harmony (and tensions) of diverse political cultures coming from the equally diverse socio-political and cultural lives of each country. It would therefore be a mistake, as the Turkish example shows, to speak of one political culture in the WSF structure.

The future of the alternative globalisation movement will not be determined by the social and political movements of the Northern countries. Its future depends on its ability to integrate and support movements like the one that has emerged in Turkey. The success of such movements will be decisive for the dynamic of social struggles at the global level. It is in light of the success or the failure of such integration that we can fully appreciate the cultural limits of the alternative globalisation movement and, by the same token, the WSF process.

Translated from French


1. For more information, the reader may visit www.antimai.org (external link) or refer to Kapitalizmin kaleleri-II (Bastions of capitalism: Istanbul: Ekim, 2001), published by WTO-Dünya Ticaret Örgütü, Türkiye MAI ve küreselleşme karşıtı çalışma grubu (Working Group against MAI and Globalisation in Turkey), and Birleşik Metal-İş Sendikası (Metal Workers Union). 2. Interview with Gaye Yılmaz (head of DISK international relations and a participant in the anti-MAI working group), December 12 2003 in Istanbul. 3. Interviews in Ankara with Kemal Başak (DSIP), December 3 2003; Sertug Çiçek (spokesperson for Antikapitalist), December 9 2003; and Pınar Ömeroğlu (union activist in Yapıyol-Sen), December 8 2003. 4. Interview with Ismail Hakkı Tombul (president of SES), December 5 2003. 5. Since the 2003 ESF, the Turkish alternative globalisation movement has gained momentum. This success was related to the anti-NATO protest in June 2004. The divisions within the alternative globalisation movement, which we will discuss later in this article, were momentarily forgotten as Küresel Bak and Irak’ta savaşa hayır koordinasyonu reunited for the protest. Subsequently, the two groups again worked together during the worldwide anti-war demonstrations on March 20 2004. 6. The report of the ISF (December 10 2003) thus mentioned information campaigns on the ESF, evaluation meetings on the Paris ESF and Mumbai WSF, along with seminars for schools and universities, NGOs, and unions, and screenings of documentaries about the social forums. 7. Interviews with Sertug Çiçek (see note 3), December 9 2003; and Levent Sensever (founder of the ISF), April 19 2004.


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