Lack of ambition?

Christophe Aguiton is a leading comrade on the French mobilising committee. Like most of those from France participating in the ESF preparatory meetings, he is a member of the lobbying group Attac, as well as the Confédération Générale du Travail. He spoke to Tina Becker

Some comrades have been hinting that there seems to be a lack of ambition in the planning for the Paris ESF. For example, there has been little support from the French mobilising committee for a demonstration during the event. And so far, space for only 25,000-30,000 participants has been booked - but Attac alone has 40,000 members and well over 60,000 people took part in last year's ESF in Florence. Paris does not have a huge conference centre like Florence and that is the real problem. But we are still looking. The event will have to be quite decentralised throughout Paris and St Denis and we might be able to find more venues. Although we recently have been able to draw a number of trade unions, NGOs and muslim organisations into the ESF process, the general political situation in France is quite difficult. In the 1990s France had the strongest political movement in Europe: the 1995 strikes, the movement of the sans papiers and so forth. The creation of Attac in the late 1990s was a reflection of this high level of political activity. At the same time we have not seen the same radicalisation of youth as, for example, in Italy or Greece. In those countries there will be many young people on the anti-war demonstrations on February 15. We hope that in France we can draw more young people into politics with the mobilisation against the WTO and the G8. But there were more than one million people on the streets against Le Pen after the first round of the presidential elections. Maybe the lack of a clear, democratic leadership in such a heightened political situation is to blame for today's absence of youth from politics. I disagree. I think the main reason why we will not have so many French people protesting against the war is to do with the position of our government. Chirac's government is already doing the job - at least on paper. And as the president, he is much more powerful than us. If he says no to the war, that's it. The same is of course happening in Germany, where there has traditionally been a strong workers' movement. But why march against the war when your government is doing a better job than you can? I believe this is the reason why our demonstration will not be so big. At the last preparatory meeting in Paris you put forward proposals for a European steering committee, which we supported. But now the French comrades seem very reluctant to take a clear lead. There is a real disjunction in the French committee. A number of new forces have come into the ESF in the last few months. Forces that did not take part in Florence. We still have to talk a lot of things over with them and the atmosphere is one of compromise and negotiation. We do not want to exclude anybody and are moving forward carefully. Is that why the French comrades have been so reluctant to accept proposals for the creation of ESF networks? Surely that would be one of the most positive developments, something that unites our forces across Europe - not just once a year during the ESF, but all year round. We want to have a working group that can attempt to 'enlarge the net' of groups and organisations taking part in the ESF. But we are undergoing our own 'net enlargement' and that means we have organisations in our movement that are only part of the ESF, but do not want to be part of the social movements. There is a clear difference between the two. Attac is part of both the ESF and the social movement. We do not want to have a situation where a network can issue statements in the name of the ESF, when some organisations do not want to take part. What organisations are you referring to? There are some trade unions who do not want to be in such networks. I cannot say more than this, I'm afraid.