European Social Forum: soundbites

Only 100,000; Scots missed; Cassen castigated;

At an organising meeting of 100 or so people, which took place on the evening of Saturday November 15, Sophie Zafari of the French organising committee, Attac and the LCR, reported on that afternoon’s demonstration - and could not refrain from having a little dig at the SWP: “We cannot deny it - we only had 100,000 people on our demo,” she said - some SWP members had queried the figure, suggesting that it must have been bigger.

“We do not want to be negative in France. But we do have the habit of reporting the figures of our demonstrations accurately,” said comrade Zafari, to loud laughter from the rest of the meeting - apart from our SWP comrades, who sat there stone-faced.

Scots missed

On November12 the Scottish newspaper The Herald excitedly reported that “plans are being made to bring Europe’s socialists to Glasgow or Edinburgh next year for what organisers predict could be the biggest conference ever held in Scotland.

“As the Scottish Socialist Party prepares to seek Euro-funding for its European election campaign in the early summer, moves are being made to bring the European Socialist [sic] Forum - a group including former communists, radical leftists, unions and others - for a series of conferences involving an estimated 50,000 people. The conference could be split among two or more cities, with a stadium possibly hosting a rally. The plans emerged, as leaders of the emerging European Anti-Capitalist Left - another group opposed to globalisation - meet in Paris to plan a common manifesto for the June European elections.”

The Herald’s lack of understanding about what the ESF actually is reflected in the article’s general lack of accuracy, it seems. “A journalist merely picked up on some casual discussions,” SSP national secretary Allan Green told us. “Yes, we discussed it for a while, but it does seem more likely that we will support the ESF coming to London,” he said. Of course, in theory the comrades still have until December 13 to make up their mind. On that day, a public meeting that includes delegations from France and Italy will decide on the precise venue, as well as on the modus operandi of the British bid.

Cassen castigated

An organising meeting on the Tuesday morning was involuntary witness to the self-important antics of Bernard Cassen, guru and founder of Attac. He phoned comrade Annik, who was chairing the meeting. First she spoke quietly to him and the meeting continued. However, as she got louder and angrier, the meeting stopped and listened in astonishment to the discussion. A comrade from the PCF was kind enough to translate the shouting for us few non-French present.

Cassen had previously approached the organising committee demanding to speak at the opening ceremony of the ESF in La Villette. The committee refused, because “we did not want any big names on the platform”, according to our interpreter. Cassen, not used to being refused, got on the phone to the mayor of Paris, demanding a space on the platform. But, far from complying with this request, the mayor phoned the ESF organisers to complain in his turn about Cassen’s egotistical behaviour.

When Annik told Cassen about the mayor’s phone call, the founder of Attac accused her of “making the mayor change his mind”. For 10 minutes or so, he raged and shouted, with Annik shouting even louder to shut him up. Judging by the pleased look on her face, she won that particular argument.

When Annik finished, she got a warm round of applause from everybody present - most of them of course members of Cassen’s very own Attac. If only the comrades were as outspoken and self-confident when it comes to distancing themselves not just from the honorary president, but from Attac’s rightwing policies.