Why SWP boycotts local social forums

In his contribution, comrade Beauvais from Attac France remarked that “local social forums were absolutely crucial for us to succeed in building the European Social Forum” - a thinly disguised stab at Jonathan Neale.

Another major contradiction in the SWP’s position on social forums was pointed out by comrade Massimo de Angelis: “You want to bring the ESF to London, but you are actually against the setting up of social forums in Britain,” he said. Participants in the Manchester SF even report “a deliberate campaign by SWP members to discredit us and close us down”. Asked if comrade Neale would give a commitment to fight for this attitude to be reversed and for the SWP to support local social forums, he answered - with admirable candour - “no”.

This did not go down well with comrades Beauvais and especially Hugo Braun, who attended as a delegate from the German Social Forum. “Jesus, why did he say that?” he whispered in disbelief. In Germany there are over 50 forums, in Greece there are close to 100, and many more exist in France and Italy. Most of them have of course been set up with the help of the main leftwing organisations in their respective country: Rifondazione Comunista in Italy, the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire in France, the Party of Democratic Socialism and Communist Party in Germany, etc. Particularly in Italy, the social forums have taken on a life of their own and cannot be accused of being mere fronts.

Britain really is the odd one out. Because the SWP vehemently opposes the setting up of local social forums, only a few small bodies exist across the UK - most of them with rather dubious and often confused anarcho-autonomist politics. The SWP’s official reason is that “Britain is not yet ready” - as if the political landscape in Greece or Germany were so much more fertile. The real reason is that such bodies might become rivals to the SWP’s anti-capitalist franchise, Globalise Resistance.

The few local forums that do exist in Britain operate under the anti-democratic ‘consensus principle’. It is true that this does not rule out behind-the-scenes manoeuvring, but it makes it difficult for the SWP to impose its bureaucratic control-freakery on them.

While most of GR’s estimated 200-300 members are SWP comrades, in recent months others have become unusually vocal. Naima Bouteldja, member of the GR steering committee, has voiced her opposition to the way the SWP ran the STWC: “I fully agree with Mike Marqusee’s criticism of the STWC,” she told me recently, referring to his resignation as press officer and subsequent attacks on the SWP.

Another non-SWP member of the GR steering committee publicly embarrassed comrade Neale: “I have been on the GR steering committee for a number of months,” said Faramarz Radfar, “but I have never heard any discussion on local social forums. I don’t see why we cannot support and help build them.”