Activities Seminars
On the weekend 19-21 June, IIRE hosted the  Europe-wide Meeting on Solidarity with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Over 120 people, representing diplomatic missions, Bolivarian Circles and other solidarity organisations from a wide array of traditions, attended the three-day event which was co-sponsored by the Bolivarian Circle of The Netherlands and the Venezuelan Embassy at The Hague.

white_phosphorus_over_gaza.jpgThis question is ever so urgent to discuss, in order to advance concrete proposals and the work of solidarity as bombs fall over Gaza and the number of innocent victims increases from day to day. Mid-February, IIRE will hold it Palestine Seminar, bringing together progressive activists from several Arab countries and Israel, as well as experts and activists dealing with the Middle East from Europe, North America and the Philippines. IIRE relies on donations from its friends in order to provide travel grants to activists from the Arab world and Asia, and to organise translation between English, French and Arabic. If you would like to help facilitate this gathering of progressive forces, in order to develop a radical alternative to imperialism, genocide and religious fundamentalism, kindly use the link below to donate. Every donation is appreciated.

IIRE  - CLIMATE CHANGE SEMINAR  22 to 26 of February

Progressive movements faced with climate change: the need for an energy revolution and social transformation.

Summary article:  Climate Change, Energy Revolution and Social Transformation -

See individual content below.

Two Generations of Feminists Look at Globalization Movement from Porto Alegre to Florence

From July 7 to 13, the IIRE held a Women's Seminar to discuss global strategy for Women's Liberation. Although with fewer participants than hoped, we had women from Québec, Canada, United States, France, England and Denmark.

4th IIRE Women's School big success

The fourth women's session at the IIRE took place in July 1998. Like its predecessors it was a successful and much appreciated occasion for women from different continents and experiences to meet, exchange and discuss. Participants came from the Philippines, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Spanish state, Portugal and Switzerland.

The coordinating team of Heather Dashner (Mexico), Penny Duggan (France), Tatau Godinho (Brazil) and Nancy Herzig (Puerto Rico) were pleased to work with number of new lecturers bringing new contributions such as the analysis of the changing nature of women's work from Helena Hirata of France/Brazil/Japan, Canadian Wally Seccombe's analysis of the historical evolution of the family structure and Eleni Varikas' highlighting of the history of women's political struggle. Jacqueline Heinen contributed an authoritative analysis of the changing place of women in the evolution of the 'post-Communist' societies of Eastern Europe. Terry Conway from Britain provided a thoughtful contribution on the nature of religious fundamentalism and its impact on women. We regretted however the absence of US family historian Stephanie Coontz whose analysis of gender and class relations has done much to enrich our understanding of Marxism.

At the same time mutual understanding between different cultures is deepened by the daily interaction in organizing daily life from planning menus and cooking to more festive activities.

·  Penny Duggan


Second gay seminar: a leap forward

Two years of work went into making the IIRE's second International Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual (LGB) Strategy Seminar, in August 2000, more broadly representative and more intellectually challenging than the first one in August 1998. And the work paid off.

While the first seminar lasted only a weekend, the second was a week long (from Sunday to Saturday). In spite of the higher demands on participants' time and money, attendance increased: there were 23 participants from 13 countries (Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Indonesia, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Portugal, Turkey and the US) as compared with 20 participants from 9 countries last time. Whereas northwest Europeans were two thirds of the participants last time, they were in a minority this time. The higher representation from Asia was particularly important for us. Only the gender balance was a little worse this time, since three more men came while the number of women stayed constant at eight.

The greater participation from the Third World was made possible by the travel subsidies that most Third World participants received. These were almost entirely financed by grants from the Kimeta Society (Canada) and the Tom Gustafsson Memorial Fund (Sweden). At the same time it should be noted that all participants made substantial contributions themselves, often helped by their organizations.

A very high proportion of the participants also gave lectures during the course of the seminar. The programme began with a day devoted to theoretical social analysis, in which several lecturers looked at the consequences of capitalist development (particularly in the last quarter of the twentieth century) for changing family structures, gender roles, communities and sexual identities. Another day focused on overviews of lesbian/gay movements, with accounts of the different political landscapes of these movements in France and North America and of issues that arise in many of them, such as relations between female and male activists, bisexuality and transgenderism.

The rest of the programme was spent on specific issues in organizing: issues specific to the Third World (introduced by a long-time leader of the Indonesian lesbian/gay movement), trade union issues (introduced by a union activist who has recently become a fulltimer for lesbian/gay work for the British Trades Union Congress), domestic partnership (with introductions from France, where a domestic partnership law recently passed, and from Brazil, where this battle will clearly take longer), AIDS, working in left organizations and youth.


As in the first seminar, there were few if any major disagreements. One theme that participants grappled with repeatedly, though, was the tension between unity and diversity, convergence and divergence, in lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered (LGBT) communities. To what extent are people in the Third World joining the ranks of 'global gays' linked to a 'metropolitan subculture' - or stubbornly clinging to their own, culturally distinctive patterns? To what extent is growing social inequality polarizing LGBT communities along class, racial, gender, age and national lines - and to what extent can changes like same-sex marriage integrate them into existing family and social structures?

These debates will continue, in a multitude of ways. An email list and/or a page of the IIRE's future website will provide an electronic forum for continuing exchanges. Other events will offer opportunities, such as the annual Euromediterranean Summer University on Homosexualities which several French participants help organize. Seminar participants also insisted that a third seminar take place in 2002. We were particularly pleased from participants from the Brazilian Workers Party and Indonesian People's Democratic Party volunteered to join the organizing team along with people from the countries already represented on it (Belgium, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Puerto Rico).



Gay Seminar 'Can Make a Difference

This seminar at the IIRE on August 11-16 was my first lesbian/ gay/ bisexual/ transgender (LGBT) seminar at the Institute. It was the most exciting opportunity for a wide-ranging discussion on LGBT issues from a radical perspective that I have ever experienced. I think it is an extremely valuable site for discussion and debate.

The seminar examined important issues for LGBT politics in an era where we have won important rights in many of the developed capitalist countries, yet have gained little or no formal protection in much of the 'third' world. There was a grounded, practical focus to much of the discussion, relating to the political work of the people present. Participants who had participated in previous sessions reported that this one was notably more practical in focus. As a Portuguese activist said, this seminar conveyed a 'feeling that we can make a difference' in LGBT movements, and have an impact with a perspective that has barely been expressed in them so far.

The participation in the seminar (7 women and 10 men from 10 different countries) was heavily 'Northern', though there were important contributions from Indonesia and Turkey. At the same time, the seminar gained from a strong presence of youth. This encouraged us to think about developing appropriate ways for people who might not feel comfortable speaking in the context of a larger session with long interventions from people used to speaking at this kind of event.

New Openings for Liberationist Politics

The seminar began with discussions that assessed the current state of our movements, the balance sheet of our accomplishments, and the challenges for ongoing mobilization. The first of these was a session on gays and the movement against neoliberal globalization.

The picture that emerged in this session was of a very uneven and contradictory situation, in which we have won important rights in certain places (with varying amounts of political mobilization) yet have not secured the most basic rights in much of the world. The accomplishment of rights has created certain forms of depoliticization, yet the emerging global justice movement presents new openings for liberationist and internationalist LGBT politics. The ability of capitalism to accommodate certain aspects of lesbian/gay existence is something that the left of the LGBT movement must understand in some depth. This session was widely singled out in the evaluation as the one best discussion of the week.

There was a broad-ranging discussion of the question of strategy after winning partnership rights in much of Europe (and parts of North America). The movements in different countries are in very different states of mobilization or depoliticization.

There does not seem to be any single issue that dominates the horizons of LGBT movements at the present time. The discussion was necessarily scattered, but it did include some focus on the importance of organized LGBT participation in the European Social Forum (Florence, 7-10 November) and the importance of LGBT perspectives on the welfare state and the fight against cutbacks. The development of our analysis of strategy after partnerships is an important task to continue working on as a group.


The discussion of HIV/AIDS covered important points and current developments in HIV/AIDS mobilizing. The discussion included an analysis of the politics and strategies of various movements, the importance of internationalism in AIDS mobilizing, access to treatments and prevention strategies. Clearly, HIV/AIDS organizing is one of the areas in which a liberationist and internationalist approach is of particular import.

The discussion of Islam was very ambitious, in that one discussion attempted to bridge the issues of LGBT organizing in Muslim-majority countries and the appropriate responses for LGBT movements to the racist anti-Islamic offensives in Europe, North America and Australia. The speakers had to devote much of their presentations to basic education about particular countries and movements. Many participants ended up concluding that Islam as a religion is neither a key problem nor a key factor in the sexual culture of Muslim-majority societies. These societies' specific histories and social formations matter more. There is clearly a need for more discussion of the issues that arose in this session.

There were women's and youth meetings, as well as a historical session on women's cross-dressing and an added-in discussion on Internet sex that was more theoretical in character. People were clearly as much interested in these historical and theoretical topics as in the more immediately practical and directly political sessions - and the more informal discussion of Internet sex in the institute garden was particularly fun!

Plans for 2004 - and 2002-03

In general, the participants were enthusiastic about the seminar and had many suggestions for the next one. This included broadening participation (with some specific suggestions) and topic proposals including: gender and transgender in global perspective; LGBTs and trade unions; the impact of racism on LGBT movements; how movements in the North can build solidarity with the South; a general discussion of religious fundamentalism; commodification of bodies; the history of the last 30 years; indigenous cultures; the varied trajectories and shapes of different national movements; the nuclear family and gay identity; parenthood; Africa; popular culture; Cuba/ China/ Vietnam; and the history of early 20th century sex reform organizing in the workers' movement.

We agreed to use the Internet more after the seminar, especially: to coordinate organizing for the European Social Forum; to take up the coordination of HIV/AIDS work that we discussed at this year's seminar; and to help prepare the international cycle for next year's European Euromediterranean Summer University on Homosexualities in Marseilles.

- Alan Sears, University of Windsor (Canada)

Second gay seminar: a leap forward

Women's Schools

The IIRE's three-to-four-week Women's Schools have considerably enriched our other courses. For example, other courses have borrowed feminist analyses initially presented here of the interaction of gender, race and class, social and family dynamics of economic restructuring, and democracy and leadership development in popular organizations.

Lectures, by the invited speakers, members of the ad hoc coordinating team and Institute staff or participants, cover a broad range of questions, from those posed at a more abstract 'theoretical' level to more concrete analysis of the methods and forms of struggle used by women in fighting for their rights. This is the unique nature of an IIRE session, that it brings together activists from NGOs in the Philippines, trade unions in Uruguay and North America, political parties in Brazil and Ecuador, and women's organizations in South Africa. Thus it provides a political educational context in which all the participants can situate their own experience, deepen their understanding and learn from other experiences.

The next Women's School is planned to take place at latest in 2011.

Reports from previous schools:

Women's Seminar 2009

Women's Seminar 2002

Women's School 1998

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