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"Unwelcome anarchy at the ESF"

ftp | 19.10.2004 07:39 | European Social Forum | London

A letter appears in the Guardian today, written by Ken's race man Lee Jasper, Ashok Viswanathan of Operation Black Vote and Pav Akhtar "NUS black students officer ".
It accuses an "exclusively white group of anarchists" of storming a "platform of black and Jewish speakers" and punching a black man and stealing his mobile phone.......

We agree with your appreciation of the success of the European Social Forum (Leaders, October 18). However, the storming of the stage of the anti-racist and anti- fascist session on Saturday had nothing to do with how the event was organised. It was the attempt of a tiny minority who oppose the ESF and have had no involvement in it to undemocratically impose their views on the majority and suppress other views by using physical violence.
It was carried out by an exclusively white group of anarchists who had no involvement in the ESF. They entered the building, stormed the platform of black and Jewish speakers, punched the black chair of the session and stole his mobile phone. The next day the same group tried to storm the stage of the demonstration, tearing down the crash barriers and assaulting ESF stewards.

We have never seen such behaviour in the progressive movement in Britain before and it should be totally condemned. The ESF was created to allow democratic discussion of the whole range of views within the social justice movement. No viewpoint was excluded and it is totally unacceptable for a tiny minority to attack that democratic process by using physical violence. That is all the more the case when they violently attack black people to stop us from discussing how to fight racism and fascism.
Lee Jasper
Secretary, National Assembly Against Racism
Ashok Viswanathan
Deputy coordinator, Operation Black Vote
Pav Akhtar
NUS black students officer

- Homepage:,3604,1330357,00.html


Hide the following 19 comments

Sick use of the race card.

19.10.2004 09:15

OK, so let's get one thing clear here shall we...

The intervention was timed to coincide with the appearance of Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London. It was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with any racial motivation as implied by the letter.

If Ken Livingstone had been speaking in a plenary about how to make london more sustainable, the intervention would still have happened.

That this race card is being played by Ken Livingstone's special advisor just stinks.

It also implies that the action was to violently attack black people to stop them from discussing how to fight racism and fascism, and denies that the intervention had anything to do with protesting Ken Livingstone and the GLA, and to denounce the problematic ESF organising process.

This is astounding!

It was obvious to anyone listening in that hall that the intervention was about the ESF and the way it had been organised, including the control of Ken Livingstone's GLA.

Certainly it was clear enough for the Guardian Journalist who reported some of the speeches, along with the fact that the intervention only lasted for 30 mins, after which the fighting racism and fascism event WENT AHEAD... (see extract below - full article:,15212,1330018,00.html)

If you want to be any clearer on this, see a copy of the Babels co-ordinators statement which was read out during the intervention (NB Babels are the volunteer interpreters who work for free at the ESF enabling the entire event to take place):

Oh yes, also Lee Jasper accused the people involved in the intervention of having had no involvement in the european social forum at all. Well sorry but how does he know what each of those two hundred or so people had been involved in? Even if there weren't people who had involvement in the process over the last year, or who spoke at the forum, or who had stalls, or who volunteered to help the forum, or who had participated in previous forums, then certainly many of those inside the forum applauded the speeches, and agreed with many of the important points made.

That there have been serious problems over the organisation of the ESF in London is no secret. It has been documented by many people, including other European delegations and British NGOs, as well as on indymedia and other media, including The Guardian.

So what we have here is a devisive letter which seeks to mix up several issues to deflect the fact that people intervened in the Forum to protest about the serious problems in the process. A letter that shamelessly plays the race card and mixes up several issues to try and obscure the truth and the issues.

That there were brief heated scuffles is certainly part of the story, as previously reported by indymedia, but it is certainly not the whole story and was certainly in no way connected to any racial motives as implied. For note the crowd was not entirely white, though was predominatly white (as were the majority of the audience). Indeed both sides make claim to the other using physical violence - see previous indymedia reports.

I'm sure all would regret that there were two minor scuffles (one when the people took to the stage, and the other when one of the original people on the stage later tried to prevent the Babels statement being read), but a scuffle at the microphone is hardly unheard of in political circles... and this was one wasn't even serious enough for the private security to step in on. Continuing with the facts, the original chair dropped their wallet and phone in the first scuffle, but then when others who had been there originally returned to the occupied stage and asked about the items, those on the stage helped search for it.

In closing, this letter is more like the kind of coverage of a protest you would expect from a corporate right wing tabloid newspaper. Focussing on the tiny bit of conflict and ignoring or obscuring the issues, while in playing the race card it really sinks to a low level.

One final point. The previous night, the plenary in the exact same space had been completely disrupted to the point that it was cancelled. This was reported by The Guardian:,3604,1330098,00.html

It was disrupted by people from the forum and had to be abadnoned. Now you don't see the GLA or other ESF officials making a big fuss over this do you? And yet this incident did deny the platform to speakers and ruin the event, unlike the intervention against Ken Livingstone.

As has been reported, in the saturday intervention the people left after 30 mins and the session continued.


Guardian Report Extract:

Mr Livingstone was the target of a planned ambush of Alexandra Palace by up to 200 anarchists from across Europe on Saturday, who took to the stage for half an hour to denounce the organisation of the ESF.

The mayor had been due to be the keynote speaker at the three-hour session on uniting against the fascist right across Europe, but his aides later insisted he had decided to withdraw from the event "mid-week" - although no notice had been given.

There was also a protest statement by the volunteer translators' group of 500 linguists providing their services for the event, claiming that several of their Turkish and Kurdish speakers had been refused entry into Britain to work for the event.

The independent news activist group Indymedia alleged that their internet servers in London had been taken down on FBI orders, and criticised the Guardian, a media partner of the ESF, for not investigating the claims.

Speakers attacked the event for not living up to its ideals, claiming that the venue's security was "outsourced" by being bussed down from Glasgow - which was confirmed to the Guardian by several ushers. Meanwhile, the catering was standard British bacon rolls and sausages - for a largely organic and vegetarian conference. Last year in Paris the hospitality was provided by the guru of organic "slow food", French farmer José Bové.


Babels - No Democracy

19.10.2004 11:43

Why do the Babels co-ordinators - self selected individuals some of whom were being paid over £2000 a month by the UK ESF Organising Committee - never consult the volunteer interpreters when putting out statements.

A number of my friends were volunteer interpreters at the ESF. They were there as they supported the ESF, wanted it to be success, take part and to visit London. Babels was incidental.

Some of the paid Babels Co-ordinators from the start did not want the ESF to come to London and be the success it has. Hopefully these individuals were not abusing their position to facilitate the violence at the plenary.

esf activist and volunteer

Trade unionist

19.10.2004 14:15

I attended the ESF and thought it was a brilliant and well organised event. Sure there were a lot of people whose politics I didn't agree with, but I am prepared to unite with others to oppose the war, racism, neoliberalism, and to fight for another world better than the awful one capitalism confronts us with. In this process which political theory and practice is the best will be tested by our common experience.

I thought it was a shame that some groups' political views barred them from working with other anti-capitalist, anti-war and anti-racist forces, but the tragedy is worse than than I thought. Not content with splitting from the main group of activists (they can't write off the majority of the 20,000 surely) to organise their own event, their main decision was to stop other activists having their own debates - using thuggery.

To hear these people criticise the police and fascists when they employ those groups tactics against democratic debate would be laughable if it wasn't so serious. The police, BNP Blair and Bush will be the ones laughing their socks off - though I guess the the attackers are pleased with themselves. Those who attacked the ESF Fighting racism and fascism meeting did what the real enemies could only dream of doing.

Political views espoused are one thing - their criticisms of the ESF - but it is the actions that speak the loudest and truest. Anti-racists don't hit black people. Democrats don't prevent democratic debate of our fellow travellers.

This all stems from their inability to organise an alternative to the ESF, after they found their politics couldn't dominate it.

Ian McKendrick

Beyond Good and Evil

19.10.2004 14:21

Storming of a platform had nothing to do with a Black or Jewish speakers/race but it was to expose the flawed idea that capitalism can somehow be improved. Furthermore the ESF organised the event is such a manner that the access or participation had been denied to those who could not afford it. The ESF had been organised by the government and other capitalist institutions, those they are supposedly fighting against.
It is very sad to see that:

Lee Jasper - Secretary, National Assembly Against Racism
Ashok Viswanathan - Deputy coordinator, Operation Black Vote
Pav Akhtar - NUS black students officer

are using the race card to prove their loyalty to those who exploit humanity.
The fact that the they point to the 'exclusiveness' of "White" anarchists protesters, exposes their own prejudices, and potrays them as being racist themselves!
The fact that someone is white, black, yellow, green etc does not make him good or bad (unless it is measured by the above) but the important is what they stand for.

What do we sand for?
What is to be Done?

Classless society, freedom, love and equality!
What we stand for is beyond good and evil.

What is done out of love, takes place Beyond Good and Evil!!!

mail e-mail:

Guess anarchists involved might want to send a letter to the Guardian

19.10.2004 14:48

Now I never thought I'd say this - but maybe it would be a good idea for any other the "storming" participants to write a letter to the Guardian NOW to give another viewpoint of the event - if only to straighten up the difference between the facts and the manipulation of the GLA.


Everyone can afford the ESF

19.10.2004 16:05

What's all this whining about not being able to pay?

There are working class people in this country who spend about 5 times the ESF entrance fee in one weekend's clubbing.

(Breakdown: entrance fee £20, ecstacy £25 for 5 tablets, drinks £15, transport £20, glowsticks £10, Kebab £5, Cigarettes £5, miscellaneous (cannibis, poppers, chewing gum, etc... about £10).

Now I'm about as middle class as they come but I've been to Creamfields and the Godskitchen Global Gathering and most people there I'd say were working class and blatantly most of them were all spending well over £100 on their weekend.

Blatantly anyone who really wanted to go to the ESF could have afforded the £20 entrance fee (concessions - but they didn't check for proof) - even if it means sacrificing a few packets of fags or something.

You anarchists just want everything to be free. Well the money's got to come from somewhere.


Couldn't what?

19.10.2004 16:13

The SWP's history is well known at trying to 'dominate' - all the horizontals wanted was an equal say: obviously too much for an SWP hack and his frieds in the GLA and Labour Party.



19.10.2004 16:26

Fuck off Ozymandius you pretentious middle class scumbag. Fuck you Creamfields corporate shit and your incessantly wank postings. Fuck Lee 'Poverty pimp' Jaspers and his £110,000+ per year GLA job splitting up working class communities along artificial lines.
( Check out Keeenan Malik for instance if you want to know more about that opportunist state fat scumbag ).


a letter i sent - not that it will get published :)

19.10.2004 16:30

I find the views of your Black Students Officer - Pav Akhtar - disgraceful in the light of a recent letter he wrote to the Guardian.

In this, he accused anarchists of a racially motivated attack on speakers. In addition, he plays the race card by highlighting the religion of one speaker despite the fact that their colour and creed had nothing to do with whether they were assaulted or not - or whether the intervention was made at that point to stop the debate.

The simple truth is that the intervention was to stop Ken Livingstone from speaking. This is because he is the member of a party that supports the illegal invasion of Iraq, and because he has nothing to do with the WSF or ESF nor the movement that helped plant their seeds. There were black, asian, jewish people in the contingent who stormed the stage and supported the intervention. Trust me - I was there. And it wasn't done to stop the anti-fascism debate; as he should well know the debate continued, 30 minutes later, because it was never the intention to prevent it in the first place!

Once again - now as a post-graduate student - I am disgusted that the national body supposed to represent students does nothing of the sort. My mind was pretty much made up after going to two of your conferences and being shouted at by a bunch of bastards (for lack of better word) sitting on the podium, smugly controlling the debate and mouthing off insults to the gathered delegates. The hatred shown towards the Palestinian cause was of particular shock at the time (this was 2001).

The activists and anarchists who stormed the stage at the ESF have done more for the cause of anti-fascism that you guys will do in your lives. Your petty desires to suck up to the powerful to enhance your future job prospects - at the expense of hard working people who aren't of the managerial class - sickens me.

The NUS is shit

Racism in Sheeps Clothing

19.10.2004 16:46

Mr McKendrick - "anti-racists" don't hit black people. What the fuck does that mean? People or a particular person or a particular situation? Have you considered that somebody's colour might be incidental to being hit? The SWP and other selfish interests have been jumping on the anti-racist 'bandwaggon' for years now and quite frankly it is disgusting - trying to make money and obtain power through racism - because that is what you are doing. If I am fighting a fascist I don't give a fuck what colour they are.


UNISON Officials - sigh

19.10.2004 16:57

Ian McKendrick says:

"Sure there were a lot of people whose politics I didn't agree with, but I am prepared to unite with others to oppose the war, racism, neoliberalism, and to fight for another world better than the awful one capitalism confronts us with. "

How nice of you to be prepared to unite with people who oppose these things!!! And the mention that Labour Party Mayor Ken Livingstone was the actual target of the protest is where exactly Ian? Or do you not mind real violence, violence that kills tens of thousands of people? Just like Ken who decided to rejoin the party after it had already attacked Iraq on the most spurious of motives?

As to the awful world capitalism confronts us with, did you not notice the burger vans, the glossy literature strewn all over the floor, the agency workers on minimum wages ....... somehow I doubt it, cos after all Unison officials are forever going to these kind of shindigs....

Ian blahs on ....."their main decision was to stop other activists having their own debates - using thuggery."

Well, of course we wouldn't expect important UNISON officials to go and look at the alternatives, to see if there really are less corporate alternatives for this "another world" that we all hanker for - your loss really, Beyond ESF and a number of other alternative spaces were a much cuddlier expereience altogether - but you never saw them so they didn't happen. As to stopping the debate, erm that was other people on the previous night. The debate on Saturday went ahead, albeit a little after scheduled.... whilst Ken's pigs were flexing their muscles outside , albeit very badly.

"The police, BNP Blair and Bush will be the ones laughing their socks off - though I guess the the attackers are pleased with themselves"

I'm sure they'll be gagging to read context-free misrepresentations of reality like yours - sucker!!!!!!

"Anti-racists don't hit black people"

Don't they? Instead they patronise them and mention their skin colour at every possible opportunity - nobody on the stage was dealing with a "black man" - they were dealing with a paid full time SWP organiser who was trying to wrestle the mike from them..... and one of the protestors who was up on the scaffolding is adamant that Weyman Bennet was not hit, and that after the kerfuffle he stood chatting to activists on the stage. Nobody went looking for Weyman, he came looking for them! What is for sure is that the security team saw no reason to intervene on Weyman's behalf. Do you always see the skin before the person Mr. McKendrick?

"This all stems from their inability to organise an alternative to the ESF, after they found their politics couldn't dominate it."

Ooh Ooh hark at him....... thing is right there was an alternative to the glossy world, and you wouldn't recognise it if it bit you on the nose. So, keep up the lies for your war party friends, and your Swappie friends but please, try to be less patronising to black people.



Was this Class War?

19.10.2004 18:46

The Working Class Haves against the Have Nots?
British Working Class Haves shot down workless Have Nots with no protest from Black White Pink or Yellow Labour Party supporters. There are Traitors in all colours, and Fascists in all races.
And New Labour is bulding Global Economic Fascism. Climb aboard, Traitors of all colours welcomed.


My letter to The Guardian

19.10.2004 20:36

The main objective to storm the stage on saturday was to ensure that no Social Forum can ever again exclude the grassroots and autonomous, horizontal and DIY political groups again, that these groups deserve respect and participation at the organisational and structural level of the ESF.

There were 4 main reasons to storm the stage, which has been clarified at the time:
1. The commercialisation of the European Social Forum ( not only because of the entrance fee, the commercial catering, businesses doing the website and PR, advertising,...)
2. Freedom of Movement (entrance fee, people's (in)ability to come to the ESF from outside the European Union)
3. Ken Livingstons involvement at the European Social Forum
4. The exclusion of grassroots, autonomous and anarchist, political DIY and non-hierarchical, horizontally working groups during the ESF organisation, process and decision making. (not allowing free public internet access points, the high prices for stalls and entrance fee, the exclusion of anarchists from giving workshops, seminars and talks, as well as linking the decision making ability to the amount given to the organising committee, the disrespectfull treatment of volunteer organisations such as Babels)

The action had nothing particularly to do with the topic of racism, apart from that Ken Livingston was included as speaker. When he withdraw due to the thread of direct action, there were doubts if the action still should go ahead, but it was decided to do so, because the other reasons for the action still exist, and a visual impact would be neeeded to draw attention to the importance of the issue and the neglect of the underlying principles of the organisation of the Social Forum.

It was made clear that the action was not directed at the topic nor speakers at the time, however, they refused to let people speak which escalated the situation, although they had lots of previous warning that this action would be happening (e.g. they withdraw the majors appearance from the platform in advance as well as the support of some of the french, italian and german delegates ensured that no repression against the activists could be taken inside the Alexander Palace). They were able to continue after everybody had their say, as previously reported in The Guardian.

- ab

Also see: call for action

Please add comments if there is something missing or incorrect, but that's how I perceived it.


The simple truth is that the intervention was to stop Ken Livingstone from speak

19.10.2004 20:43

Well there we have it the poster condemns him or herself with his or her own words. You decide who is or who is not acceptable and use thuggery to enforce your will and even do so at events which you have already decided to boycott. If Ken is beyond the pale for being a Labour Party member then I suppose that next on your censorship list will be Jeremy Corbyn, Tony Benn, George Galloway, Alan Simpson etc.

I'm no fan of the SWP and dislike its sectarianism but they have nothing on you lot.

Matthew Stiles

My letter to the Guardian

19.10.2004 21:10

Dear Guardian

You printed a letter from Lee Jasper saying that anarchists who broke up the anti-fascist meeting at the ESF were racist. Well, we’re not, even though we were all white. You might as well say we were sexist just because we were all blokes.

And anyway, the reason that Jewish woman and the black guy were punched was not because of their race but because they got in our way.

The ESF was hijacked from the start by pro-war trots like Ken Livingstone, Lee Jasper and the police who wanted to turn it into a pro-Blair rally in support of Bush. That’s why we had to pull on our balaclavas, storm in and break it up, just like we did at the Winter Palace in 1917.

We had to punch those people to stop the violence in Iraq. And even though we robbed that guy’s mobile phone, the real theft is of workers’ labour power the capitalists make every day.

Long live Makhno!

£25 for ecstacy what type of mug do you think i am?

19.10.2004 22:10

"What's all this whining about not being able to pay?"

"entrance fee £20"
I have never paid more than £12 to get in anywhere in my entire life, whats more 90% of the time i dont pay more than £5.

"ecstacy £25 for 5 tablets"
You dirty middle class looser, who pays £25 for ecstacy? not me mate(!)

"drinks £15"
I only pay £15 for drinks if there is no music, what do you do all night? sit down drinking?

"transport £20"
The most i have ever paid on transport was £8 and that was when i needed to get the train! - don't ask.

"glowsticks £10"
how many of those things do you buy? 10?

"Kebab £5"
you can buy chips for a quid, why get a kebab?

"Cigarettes £5"
the easy answer to this is DONT SMOKE!

"miscellaneous (cannibis, poppers, chewing gum, etc... about £10)"
cannibis maybe £10 but i dont buy the stuff, plus of the people who i know, they spend about £10 in a week (or longer).

To sum up, you are a posh middle class wanker and i would prefer that you do not impose your values on my commodities please.

not an over priced middle class mug

Matthew Stiles

19.10.2004 23:44

Hoo boy - There was a lot more to it than Ken being a Labour Party member, there was his role in the organisation of the ESF and the issue of his pigs harrassing every social centre that they could find.

BTW, did you think ESF stood for "Every Same Fucker" or something? There are a myriad of opportunities to hear the pearls of mainstream Labour politicians, ESF is not about perpetuating the same, tired old structures, its about looking for new ones.

Perhaps you think that Tony Blair should open the next one, with Blunkett leading a plenary on "dealing with the Police State"?



reply to ftp

20.10.2004 13:14

If it wasn't for Ken Livingstone it is very doubtful that the ESF would have even been held in London. It is obvious that the organisers of the ESF need or want large financial contributions and in this case the big money came from the GLA. This came despite opposition from the Tories (remember them?) If this is totally unacceptable to you then fair enough you organise something like Beyond ESF but then to come back and try to disrupt the "official" meetings is totally intolerant. As for the war, Ken Livingstone along with a lot of the Labour Party was against it from the start remember.

Anyway, criticisms of Ken Livingstone may be legitimate but talk of how GLA/SWP dominated everything didn't apply in my experience at least. At all the seminars and workshops I went to there wasn't a single Labour Party politican nor as far as I know any SWP speaker.

By the way, I have a limited knowledge of anarchism having read a bit of Kropotkin and in Spain where I used to live I met people from the CNT and CGT unions. I could be interested in listening to anarchists but if disruptions like that of Saturday is the way they are going to go about things then I ain't tempted much to find out more.

Matthew Stiles

check out this reply to the letter, published in The Guardian

20.10.2004 21:52

see newswire:

"Stop using race to smother dissent: another Letter to The Guardian"


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