Radical media, politics and culture.

BARCELONA 2004 :: waiting for the rain :: (Forum of Culture)

hydrarchist writes the original Spanish version is avaialble here.

BARCELONA 2004 :: waiting for the rain ::

by Stefano

contact mailing list:

How and why it was
decided that in 2004, from May 9th to September
26th, Barcelona had to celebrate the "Universal Forum of

In the year 2004, the subsidies that the European
Community grants to
its less-developed member countries in the Mediterranean basin will end,
as the EC shifts its focus toward financing the development of its new
members in Eastern Europe. So the leadership of the city of
Barcelona decided that, in order to squeeze every last penny out
of the EC development fund, they would have to invent a special event to
justify an enormous financial investment. The Olympics had already been
assigned, and for years the Barcelona City Council had been working to
sell a new image of the city to the outside world, using slogans that have
been growing in popularity in recent years: "The City of Peace," "The
Multicultural City," "The Sustainable City"...

Even if, among the
organizers of the "Universal Forum of Cultures"
in 2004, there were a group of cultural promoters that were truly
to certain of the supposed "contents" to be discussed during the 6-month
event, these cultural interests have been totally squashed by the
speculative and business interests taking part in the Forum, which since
the beginning of the organization of the event have doubtlessly imposed
themselves above all other interests. What is left is the rhetoric of the
three "axes" that the Forum turns upon, which are nothing more than
buzzwords used to call for general consent: "Peace," "Diversity,"
"Sustainability." ...And a huge emphasis on "Participation," another very
popular word.

By 2001, the attempts to weave the "Forum" into the
social and cultural
fabric of the city had already failed miserably. The Barcelona Federation
of Neighborhood Associations (FAVB) declared that its demands had been
utterly disregarded, and that their participation had been requested
purely to boost the Forum's image, and so href="http://www.lafavb.com/comunicats/2001_09_.php">the FAVB withdrew
from the Forum. At the same time, many of the city's intellectuals
who had been called upon to participate decided not to get involved: this
was the case with href="http://www.el-mundo.es/2001/09/04/catalunya/1043236.html">Josep
Caminal, director general of the Liceu Theatre, who
was supposed to be the Forum's main organizer; and with Josep
Ramoneda, director of the Center for Contemporary Culture, who had
been called upon as one of those "sages" who was supposed to manage
the forum's contents during the event. The prestigious href="http://www.oneworld.es/partners/ows/decl_fisas.htm">School of the
Culture of Peace, of the University of Barcelona, has also

These withdrawals were followed by others, on behalf
of numerous href="http://revista.pangea.org/article.php?sid=6294">NGOs, href="http://www.pangea.org/rai/noticia.php?id=102">associations, and
bodies within the city, as well as several professional schools (among
others, the anthropologists of the href="http://barcelona.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=27325">Federation
of Anthropological Associations of the Spanish State, who denounced
the perverse usage of the word "culture"). Another position that many
groups have adopted is that, while they denounce and refuse to participate
in the Forum's hierarchical and business-dominated organizational scheme,
they have decided to href="http://www.avui.es/avui/diari/02/nov/11/pdf/02n11d18.pdf">use the
Forum's spaces in order to make themselves known and to receive

Faced with failure on the "contents" front (which means
that, less than
four months before the event is to start, still href="http://www.el-mundo.es/2001/11/01/catalunya/1066841.html">very
little is actually known about the activities of this supposed
"Universal Forum") immense amounts of money and energy were being invested
on other fronts, such as the commercial side of things. The three public
administrations involved in the Forum's organization (the Barcelona City
Council, the Government of Catalonia, and the Spanish State
Administration) have established collaboration contracts with large
private companies to cover the predicted expenses. In a firestorm of
controversy, it was decided that the Forum of Cultures was to be financed
by href="http://www.elsud.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=845">national
and multinational corporations including href="http://www.barcelona2004.org/eng/quees/patrocinadores.htm">Telefonica,
the Endesa electric
company, the Damm beer company, Iberia airlines, El Corte Ingles shopping
centers, Toyota, the La Caixa banking company, Nestle, Coca Cola, and -
with less publicity - Indra Information Technology. If the policies of
these and other sponsoring companies have been the subject of much href="http://barcelona.indymedia.org/usermedia/application/2/endesa.rtf">controversy,
Indra's participation merits special attention, because this corporation
gets most if its income by developing href="http://barcelona.indymedia.org/usermedia/application/8/indra.rtf">military
technology. Nevertheless, the Forum continues to proclaim its
commitment to dialogue about "Peace".

The situation got even more
complicated when the conflict exploded in
Iraq. When the population of Barcelona took to the streets in mass
demonstrations (on February 15th, it was said that there were more than a
million protesters in Barcelona) Barcelona residents requested that the
Forum - like all other institutions of the city - declare itself to be
against the war. But the participation of the Spanish government in the
Forum implies that all organizing bodies must be in consensus, so href="http://barcelona.indymedia.org/usermedia/application/11/joan_w_clos.rtf">any
declaration against the war in Iraq was prohibited. If afterward there
were individual declarations or positions belatedly taken against the war,
it is sure that among the themes that will be debated during the Forum,
there will be, coincidentally, five gaping holes in the discussion: Iraq,
Afghanistan, Palestine, the former Yugoslavia, and the Basque

Like the 1992 Olympics, this Forum is also a pretext for
a massive href="http://barcelona.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=25554">"urban
renewal" project of proportions never-before seen: nothing less than
the "requalification" of the entire north coast of Barcelona, a zone too
potentially valuable to continue housing the "same old" neighbors of the
Poble Nou district. And so began the city-planning works that would come
be called "District 22@": a "city of knowledge," according to official
propaganda, which in order to be installed in the city would require the
demolition of innumerable historic buildings in the neighborhood, and the
of thousands of residents' homes. In their place, in this new
"District 22@," hotels, shopping centers, office-building skyscrapers, and
luxury houses will be constructed, all of which accelerate the process of
"gentrification" that the city has suffered with for the past 10 years. To
a lesser extent, this phenominon is also seen in Barcelona's city center
and other neighborhoods, but on the north coast it has reached
unimaginable proportions.

The predicted total cost of the Forum
2004 is about two thousand
million Euros (about 2.5 billion dollars). Of these expenses, only 319
million Euros will go to the actual contents of the forum; the other 1,740
million will go to the new city-planning projects. and urban renewal.
Obviously, href="http://barcelona.indymedia.org/usermedia/application/8/districte_22_a.rtf">those
who profit will be the big special-interest groups and the real-estate
companies, such as Procivesa and Servihabitat, and the multinational
corporations, from General Electric to La Caixa, Retevisin, AXA, Deutsche
Telekom, etc., that have already bought the land that has been siezed,
which had formerly belonged to the public or been the private property of
the old Poble Nou neighborhood's residents.

During the summer
before the Forum, after the massive antiwar
mobilizations, various events occurred that demonstrated the Barcelona
City Administration's will to end the "diversities" within the city. First
there was the constant assaults on and arbitrary detentions of tens of
immigrants who lived in the abandoned houses in the href="http://www.sant-andreu.com/casernes/manifest005papersperatots.htm">Torres
i Bages neighborhood. The City Council wants to "clean out" that area,
but does not offer any solution for the 600 "undocumented migrants" who
live there. Then came the orders to href="http://barcelona.indymedia.org/newswire/display_any/49499">evict the
two oldest and most active squatted social centers in Barcelona: Las
Naus and la Casa de la Muntanya, in the Grcia neighborhood. This is not
surprising, since in the previous year the city had already witnessed
numerous episodes like this: since the href="http://www.plataformabcn.net/forat.htm">police raid in November
2002 against neighbors in the Forat de la Vergonya park, and the
multiple evictions of href="http://www.sindominio.net/ofic2004/diezhoras/comunic2.htm">"antiwar
spaces" in Aviny street, on February 18th, and in the Placeta del Pi
liberated plaza on March 20th, not to mention the numerous evictions of
the houses that are less well known, such as the houses in the
Vallcarca neighborhood, in Santa Catalina, and in El Guinard, etc. The
goal is to "clean up the city" for the guests of the Forum of

This event's pretension is impressive, when you read
the number of
visitors that Barcelona hopes to welcome in the months between May and
October 2004: more than Rome during the jubilee - the 2000th anniversary
of the birth of Christ. According to the Forum's promoters, about a half
billion people - one twelfth of the world's population - will be
"sensitized by the Forum's arguments," even though they themselves cannot
all come to visit Barcelona. We're not wrong to discount these
declarations as mere delusions of omnipotence. Basically, the Forum will
be: "El Grec" theatre festival, the Merc music festival, and the normal
Barcelona summer activities, ending with the Festival of Saint Eulalia: it
is possible that more tourists may come than in other years because of the
presence of international artists and because of the enormous flood of
propaganda that we are already witnessing, but Barcelona has always been a
city that is rich in cultural activity, without needing any Forum to bring
culture to it.

After the Forum, when the tourists and the artists
return home again,
we will be left with a city transformed, a city that is ready to enter
into a new phase in its history: a new dominion will have been declared,
over public space and over the imaginations of its inhabitants. What
remains to be seen is how the diverse actors involved in this event will
play out their roles: the administrations, the multinationals, and the
population of the city, and in particular the dissenting cultural and
social fabric of the city. Many processes will come to a head, in 2004,
and there is much to reflect upon and to debate, when considering how to
act before and during the Forum. The rhetoric of "Peace" and
"Multiculturality" is extremely subtle; it creates a very strong division
between those who have come to see that it is only a rhetorical cloak, and
those who remain trapped by the knee-jerk reaction of spontaneous consent
that the Forum's buzzwords bring about. Just as the Forum's promoters will
try to capture the approval of the "anti-globalization movement" (it's no
accident that they yse the word "Forum," a reminder of the Social Forums
in Florence and in Porto Alegre!) by inviting dissident intellectuals such
as Ignacio Ramonet, Noam Chomsky or Jose Saramango, and by imitating the
"alternative" style and design that are typical of Barcelona. There might
even be some good concerts and debates. But the essence of the Forum can
be summarized in Telefonica's advertising slogan: "Digas lo que digas,
pero dilo con TELETARGETAS TELEFONICA" (Talk about what you want, but talk

Forum 2004. Where armed
globalization paints itself in rainbow colors.

see also: href="http://barcelona.indymedia.org/?category=forum_2004">Barcelona
Indymedia - forum 2004 page

www.fotut2004.org (fucked in

gran circo de las culturas
by Manuel Delgado, anthropologist

from Oficina 2004

futuro en tiempo de descuento by Agust Fancelli

of the Assemblea de Resistncies al Frum 2004

Social Forum against Forum 2004

Universal Forum of
Cultures 2004 - official site

For contacts, write to the href="mailto:llistainsostenible@sindominio.net">Assemblea de Resistencies
al Forum mailing list