Rhetoric and hot air

European Social Forum: Too much hot air

Given the importance the CPGB places on the need for transparency and democracy in the ESF and the World Social Forum, the plenary on the strategies concerning the ‘dynamics and ambitions of the social forums movement from Porto Alegro to Mumbai’ was always going to be interesting.

Unlike last year’s ESF, where speakers from the top table tended to talk down to, rather than engage with, the audience, there appeared to be more of a realisation of the shortcomings of the social forums - with a number of proposals, ranging from the sensible to the wacky, being raised from platform speakers, as well as those from the floor.

Bernard Cassen, co-founder of the WSF and honorary president of Attac France, for example, spoke of the need for “practical measures” to be taken from the forums in order to engage in “practical work for the defence of workers’ rights … We simply cannot meet from one year to the next and just talk”. Quite right, but, given Attac’s policy of actually holding back the ESF and arguing against the setting up of effective European-wide networks, his plea amounts to little more than hot air.

A lot of hot air from Maria Styllou too. Listening to this activist in the SWP’s Greek sister organisation, Sosialistiko Ergatiko Komma, speaking on behalf of their version of Globalise Resistance, Genoa 2001, you would believe that all you need to do is to string together some militant phrases and everything else will somehow follow. Demagogic her speech may have been; enlightening it was not.

However, Salvatore Cannaro, editor of Rifondazione Comunista’s daily newspaper Liberazione, hit the nail on the head when he spoke of the need not only for “practical measures”, but also for a debate between “reform and revolution” within the forums. “We’re strong enough to take it,” he insisted.

From the floor, the need for democracy was, quite rightly, raised, including the important step of lifting the ban on political parties in order to facilitate transparent participation in the forums. Most leading individuals are actually members of political organisations, but either willingly or reluctantly do not mention the fact. As a result, you have to be in the know to understand the unspoken nuances of each contribution.

The plenary contained important exchanges and ideas. It is essential we take the positive aspects from it and build on them.