Action, not words

Over 100 student activists, trade unionists and supporters of left groups packed into a small lecture room at the Manchester Mechanics Institute on Wednesday October 9 for the first European Social Forum organisational meeting in the north west. Haidi Giuliani, mother of Carlo, was the crowd-pulling main speaker, alongside Jonathan Neale of Globalise Resistance. Under the title of 'Where next for anti-capitalism?', the two comrades gave poignant speeches about the ills of global capitalism and the need for a radical new opposition to corporate globalisation. The speakers were followed by a question and answer session, which quickly became a vehicle for debate around the fight for the importance of ideas. One comrade from the floor bemoaned the SWP's tendency to "merely mount yet another sterile attack on the status quo at every meeting", instead of working towards exploring politics which could feed into Florence in November. The SWP majority, however, did not view this as an acceptable proposal, and some comrades unfortunately tended towards an apparent philistine position of rejecting discussion altogether. According to one, "Drawing up and endlessly discussing correct formulations is not what will build our movement." Instead, "We need to get onto the streets now." Thankfully subsequent SWP comrades did tone down this anti-Marxist position somewhat, but the emphasis remained on the anti-war demo to be held at some point during the ESF in Florence - something for which the SWP has pushed hard amidst relative lack of interest from other European left organisations. Comrade Neale of GR remarked: "Of course without theory our movement is blind ... but what we really need to do is to raise the political temperature." It seems unlikely that the SWP in Manchester will be pushing forward theoretical discussions in the run-up to November 6 - or subsequently, for that matter. One highly visible element in last week's meeting was the significant youth presence. Local students and young activists had certainly showed up after freshers week agitation on campuses around Manchester. But how do we forge these young comrades into an effective movement against capital? Through smashing shop windows and endless 'radical', 'F**k "¦ [insert manifestation of capitalism here]' demonstrations? As one comrade pointed out, the ESF marks the coming together of the European left for a week of debate and criticism. This melting pot of ideas has the capacity to take our movement forward towards greater unity. From comrade Giuliani's remarks, it seems our Italian comrades have come closer to the sort of high-level debate, including around questions of youth, that the British left sadly lacks in the main. Mobilising youth for action alone will never provide us with the future vanguard we need. James Bull