Workshops sidelined

Discussion of workshops fell off the agenda at the weekend. Not for time reasons, however, says Tina Becker

Although it was decided previously that the meeting in Barcelona would take final decisions on the number and subjects of workshops, the main organisers from Italy were not able to bring a list with all the proposals on where these workshops will actually take place. This is a serious problem, as workshops are the only forums in which political parties can officially participate in the ESF. The 'Charter of principles', written and decided by the Brazilian majority in the World Social Forum, stipulates that political parties cannot participate at all. It does not matter if it is Tony Blair's Labour Party or the CPGB. In reality, this simply encourages and rewards dishonesty. There are to be a number of SWP speakers on various platforms and dozens of members of Rifondazione Comunista are booked for seminars and conferences - not, however, under the names of their organisations. SWP members, for example, will speak as delegates from the Stop the War Coalition (Lindsey German), Globalise Resistance (Chris Nineham) or, in the case of Alex Callinicos, "a lecturer"�. In the WSF, the Brazilian Workers Party has effectively been running the show. They financed and organised it - and were able to use the forum for their own political purposes. In Italy, the region of Tuscany and the city of Florence both have centre-left governments, where the Democratic Left (DS) has donated hundreds of thousands of euros to the running of the ESF. The castle, where most of the meetings will take place, has been offered free of charge. Hundreds of translators are being paid by the regional government. Dozens of local schools and halls have been provided as free accommodation. The DS and Rifondazione both aim to make political capital out of the occasion. This would be perfectly acceptable if the comrades were honest about it. But they hide their party affiliation and pretend that they are simply 'part of the movement'. In reality, they are instrumental in running the movements in their particular country. The workshops therefore provide the only platform for honest political organisations. And even this might now not happen - there might be too little time to find enough appropriate venues near the city centre. Comrade Allessandra Mecozzi, speaking on behalf of the Italian organisers, has already warned the meeting that "the locations for the workshops might be very decentralised"�. Also, as agreed at previous meetings, workshops must feature in the official programme to be handed out in Florence. If, however, insufficient venues are found in time, they might miss the deadline for inclusion. Only 250 workshops had been registered by October 2, the official deadline. Not all of them came from political parties, of course. There are single-issue campaigns, NGOs and trade unions - who will all be sidelined if the workshops cannot be organised properly. If two workshops share one venue (morning and afternoon sessions) there will only need to be a maximum of 50 venues near the city centre. Surely, this could be resolved easily enough if it were just a question of organisation.