Socialist Worker

Debate sprouts among activists

Alex Callinicos reports from Brussels

Issue No. 1791

Around 150 activists from all over Europe met in Brussels, the Belgian capital, last weekend to plan a European Social Forum. This will be modelled on the World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The World Social Forum was a great gathering of the worldwide movement against global capitalism.

It was agreed that regional social forums would be held later this year to prepare for the next World Social Forum, again in Porto Alegre, next year. And the meeting in Brussels was attended by a very broad range of organisations. These included the Italian social forum movement that emerged after the Genoa demonstrations last July, the ATTAC movement against financial speculation that has affiliates in a number of European countries, Globalise Resistance and the Stop the War Coalition from Britain, the Movement for Global Resistance from Spain, and the Genoa 2001 campaign from Greece.

Among the political organisations represented were the French, Portuguese and Austrian Communist parties, the Party of Democratic Socialism from Germany, the Coalition of the Left from Greece and the Socialist Workers Party from Britain. Italy is hosting a European Social Forum (ESF) later this year. The organisers proposed that it should be 'a common public space for discussion, debate and mutual influence' among all those who accepted the 'Call of the Social Movements' adopted at Porto Alegre.

This declaration makes clear the anti-capitalist movement's opposition to neo-liberalism and war. Many delegates in Brussels stressed the importance of involving forces from Europe that hadn't been present at Porto Alegre, including trade unions, the peace movement, and activists from Eastern Europe and the Balkans. There were, however, two points of controversy. The first concerned the role of political parties and members of parliament.

There was widespread unhappiness about the way in which politicians from Brazil and France tried to use Porto Alegre for electoral purposes. Secondly many delegates, particularly those from Globalise Resistance and the SWP, challenged a proposal from the Italian hosts of the ESF over the main themes their conference should cover.

Globalise Resistance, the SWP and others argued that the movement was a product of a global consciousness, and that the ESF had to address the themes of capitalist globalisation and war.

They spoke against too narrow a focus on European constitutional issues. Instead, they argued, the conference should reflect activists' concerns over globalisation and war.

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Sat 16 Mar 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1791
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