I’VE SPENT the last nine months helping to organise the next European Social Forum (ESF) in London on 14-17 October. It’s six weeks away, and the signs are it will be big. At last year’s ESF in Paris, and the year before in Florence, we had 40,000. This year we’ve had twice as many proposals—for 900 meetings and 180 cultural events.
All the major trade unions, campaigns and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Britain are coming.
People come to the ESF because they care about war, Palestine, genetically modified food, clean water, and thousands of other causes. Then they go to each other’s meetings. They come away feeling like one movement, smiling, tired eyes shining, saying, “It’s all connected.”
I know that can happen. I saw it two years ago in Florence and this year at the World Social Forum in India. If it happens in Britain it will change our movements here.
For instance, for 30 years the British trade unions have had one great weakness.
The members and stewards hate what’s being done to them, but they basically accept that there is no alternative to the demands of the market.
The change I’m hoping for is that enough union activists take into their souls the twin slogans of the social forums—“Our world is not for sale” and “Another world is possible”.
That way they can fight when they get home. Without those ideas, even the bravest and most militant of union reps will keep negotiating our lives away inch by inch.
By the same token, I want the people from the NGOs who care about global poverty to see how unions could bring the fight against inequality home.
I want the tens of thousands who marched against the war to come and decide to campaign against the whole system.
It is a massive achievement that almost all the main organisations in Britain are involved in meetings. That means the ESF will be exciting. But if the numbers are big enough, we can, well, make history.
When it comes to mobilisation, everyone in the movements knows that what the readers of this paper do makes a difference. I know we’re not a machine. If I think that something really matters, I bust a gut. If I don’t think so, I go through the motions.
This one matters. To get the numbers on the day, we need a bandwagon in registrations. I want you to call everyone you know who went on the 15 February anti-war march, or wishes they had, and invite them to go to the ESF with you. If most of you do just that, and no more, the wagons will roll.
The people you bring will have a good time. And if there are enough of us, these four days in October will transform them and you. Please go phone them.