Globalization critics met in Erfurt Thursday to begin four days of discussion at the German Social Forum. Thousands from the peace movement, trade unions, environmental organizations and church groups are taking part.
Around 5,000 people are expected in Erfurt
Critics of globalization in Germany argue that political reforms are often carried out in the interest of profit, worsening people's living conditions as a result. German labor reforms, for example, are leading to spiraling unemployment, increasing poverty and the financial collapse of public and community services, they say. They also say something needs to be done and that a platform for alternative politics is required to exchange ideas on how to build another world.
The first German Social Forum intends to be a platform for discussion. But it won't end with official declarations or recommendations.
"The forum will not officially do that," said Hugo Braun, from the group Attac, one of the forum's organizers. "No single participant should be obliged to sign a document or to support special kinds of actions. They should be free to change their views and to discuss and not to be under the pressure of decisions."
Instead, the participating organizations will convene after the forum for a separate meeting the groups advocating peace and social change will formulate recommendations and declarations.
The forum's agenda includes a broad range of topics, including unemployment and immigration policies. But at the end of the forum, their attention will turn to one key issue: rejection of the German government's labor market and social welfare reforms.
Then the groups are expected to decide a plan of action against the reforms. Braun said such grass-roots action is necessary to realize the social forum's broader aims, which he described as "to change the minds of the people, to make people clear that it is possible to change political things, to change the general consensus in Germany."
Organizers are hopeful that a march through Erfurt on Saturday will raise public awareness of the forum as a broad alliance of social organizations and not just left-wing groups.