imc uk | 25.01.2004 00:00 | European Social Forum
In January 120,000 people from around the globe converged on Mumbai, India for the World Social Forum (WSF). They came to discuss and organise against neo-liberalism, war and for a world of justice, peace and equality [WSF Lands on Mumbai].
Last year 60,000 altermondailists met in Paris for the European Social Forum (ESF). Addressing similar problems, one result was the European Day of Migrant Struggles on Saturday January 31st. [ESF - Paris Dossier]. The previous year in Florence gave rise to the day of protest against the war on Iraq on February 15th, 2003.
The movement started with the first meeting of the WSF in Porto Allegre, Brasil [Official History] it was organisationally dominated by the Brazilian Workers Party (PT). Since many social fora have been created around the world, often with a traditional party at their core. At best, these give activists a space to exchange experiences and ideas, a chance for networks to get together face to face. For some the "rock concert for political hacks" :-) For the newcomer an ESF presents a bewildering array of causes and struggles and contradictions.
The ESF Assembly decided the 2004 European Social Forum would be in Britain. The ever more fraught process is underway...
Seen by many, the ESF in UK would be a fantastic opportunity. Tens of thousands of activists involved in an exciting new way of working together. A supposed stress on openness, pluralism, self-organisation, non-hierarchical structures and consensus decision-making. Political parties and government institutions are formally excluded from being represented in the Forum.
In Florence the ESF organisation was dominated by the Democratic Left (DS) and more so the Communist Refoundation (PRC); Paris ATTAC original WSF supporters close to the Socialist Party (PS) were at the fore. This has caused activists to stay away or distance themselves from event. On the fringes we have had the successful HUB, GLAD, MediaLab. But also many who argue the ESF is wedded to the liberal agenda and a distraction.
The ESF has agreed to abide by the World Social Forum Charter of Principles, which states that:
"The World Social Forum is a plural, diversified, non-confessional, non-governmental and non-party context that, in a decentralized fashion, interrelates organisations and movements engaged in concrete action at levels from the local to the international to build another world," (item 8)
"The World Social Forum will always be a forum open to pluralism and to the diversity of activities and ways of engaging of the organisations and movements that decide to participate in it, as well as the diversity of genders, ethnicities, cultures, generations and physical capacities, providing they abide by this Charter of Principles." (item 9)
In theory building the event provides a space in which the diversity of people struggling for justice and peace work together.
However, many activists involved in the organising process for what has become the ESF in London are accusing the Socialist Workers' Party (aka Globalise Resistance) - a traditional, hierarchical and authoritarian sect - a clutch of national trade union officials and the private office of the Mayor of London, of hijacking the organising process. Holding closed negotiations, packing meetings, blackmailing the process with the withdraw of funds and disregarding the consensus principle. Far from being a forum in which to discuss, compromise and progress together, some activists believe that self-appointed organisers are working to exclude some of the diverse groups and networks of the UK anti-capitalist movement from being involved. While continually claiming that the process will be "open", "accountable" and "transparent", in practice it has been and is none of these things.