Build the ESF movement

The European Social Forum planned for November in Florence will be an important step forward in the development of the anti-capitalist movement. Taking place in the context of huge class struggles in Italy, this founding meeting of the ESF provides the opportunity to firmly put the movement on a working class footing. Around 80 people met at the University of London Union on April 22 at the second meeting of the Mobilisation for the European Social Forum (MESF). The first, which seemed to be by invitation only, had agreed preliminary plans and there was discussion of perhaps forming a UK or Britain or England Social Forum, though this was left open for the future. A broad range of organisations is involved in this mobilisation, representing the diverse nature of the anti-capitalist movement. Initial sponsors of the MESF are: Globalise Resistance, Green Party, Ilisu Dam Campaign, ATTAC London, Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Alliance, World Development Movement, Red Pepper, International Socialist Group, Rifondazione Comunista (London), Newham Monitoring Project, FBU Eastern Region, MSF/Amicus London Region, Amicus London Housing branch (MSF section), Unison London region international committee. The Communist Party of Great Britain has now signed up as a supporting organisation. The idea for the ESF was proposed at the Second World Social Forum in Porto Alegre held in Brazil in February. At the WSF, a 'Call to the social movements' was issued. Recognition of this document as a reference point in the anti-capitalist movement is the basis of support for the MESF. The 'Call of the social movements' is essentially a left radical document, sown with reformist and Proudhonist illusions. This is not surprising, given the state of the movement globally. Initially the anti-capitalist movement was not really organising significant new layers of activists, but I believe that this is beginning to change, especially as anti-war protests start to overlap with the anti-capitalist movement. Many of those at Porto Alegre were from the cosy world of the NGO (non-government organisations) and aid bureaucracy. Elements of official bourgeois society has tried to coopt sections of the movement, to tame it. But to look at this movement only in this way is to piously and aridly dismiss it. There is the radical, anti-capitalist and increasingly working class element to the Social Forum and wider movement. This is most pronounced in Italy. For this reason, the formation of the ESF in Florence is a very welcome development. There was debate about the 'Call of the social movements' at the MESF meeting on Monday. I had expected sterile criticism of it from a leftist position, but resistance to acceptance of the document as the basis for inclusion in the MESF came from the Green Party, World Development Movement and War on Want. They argued that its stance for abolition of the World Trade Organisation was beyond that which their constituencies would accept. While 'Abolish the WTO' is in many ways a leftist slogan, criticism from the green/NGO wing of the meeting was due to reformist illusions in these global agencies, not because they argue that international socialist revolution will utilise and supersede global agencies of capitalism. The Green Party representative, Tom Lines, was particularly obstructive during the meeting. At one point he claimed the Green Party had "no leaders", then said that he was unable to accept responsibility for co-drafting a letter unless that task was delegated to him by Caroline Lucas, Green MEP for London! Those taking a left position in relation to the 'Call of the social movements' did not only come from the traditional left groups. John Courtneidge of the Quaker Socialists said that it did not go far enough. He said that such a document should have as the starting point: "Capitalism is the problem, not part of the solution." The conduct of the meeting, chaired by Terry Conway of the International Socialist Group, was very comradely and a lot was achieved in the two hours. The next organising meeting for the ESF is in Vienna on May 11 and 12. Marcus Ström * Lessons for left * Vittorio Agnoletto * April 16: class against class * 'Contaminated' by the movement