Socialist Worker

Storm the palace

It’s just four weeks until the ESF opens at Alexandra Palace in north London, and all over Europe activists report a fantastic response

Issue No. 1919

ESF poster - download the pdf

ESF poster - download the pdf

‘IT’S STARTING to feel like the whole movement is heading to London for the European Social Forum (ESF) in October,” says Chris Nineham, who is part of the mobilisation for the event.

The ESF in four weeks time will bring together activists against war, privatisation and capitalism.

“The unions are helping to pay for trains from Manchester and Glasgow,” says Chris.

“The ESF office in London is besieged with calls. Some 150 people are registering online every day. Coming from Crawley is a group of 100 refugees from the island of Diego Garcia, where people were driven out to make way for a US base.

“People were signing up in droves at the Noam Chomsky film-showing which attracted over 400 people in Manchester last week. Some 20 Amicus union members signed up to come at a conference in London on Tuesday, and a group of housing activists from the US just contacted us to book.

“Kashmiri activists from east London have just got in touch. The ESF is going to be a collective howl of rage against Bush and Blair’s world.

“You can approach any union branch or workplace to talk to them about the ESF.”

Jacqui Darbyshire, the development worker for Greater Manchester CND, was at the Chomsky film showing. She says, “There was a very good response to the ESF there.

“When we announced we were mobilising for it at the end we got applauded. People were putting their names down, and we got a long list of e-mails.

“We are talking to all groups in the region, and there is a very good range of people coming down to London. We want to get a similar turnout for the ESF as we got for the 15 February anti-war demonstration last year.

“People are so keen because they have been involved in the anti-war movement. We have made really good links across Europe, and the ESF is a very good chance to join hands with our sisters and brothers.”

The TUC and all the major unions are backing the ESF. Michael Arnott is the secretary of Dundee Trades Council. He told Socialist Worker, “There are coaches coming down to London from all over Scotland. Many people have pre-booked train tickets too.

“We are hoping to get loads of students at the upcoming freshers’ fairs to come. The Scottish TUC have backed the ESF, and have been a great deal of help in spreading publicity.

“Trade unionists are becoming increasingly involved in more political activities, like the anti-war movement.

“The ESF is a place where we can discuss issues that trade unions can address, like where do we start developing the fightback?

“I have been to the last two ESFs in Florence and Paris, and I have come back enthused. I hope everybody will come back enthused from London.”

The West of Scotland voluntary sector branch of the TGWU union has voted to pay for two delegates to the ESF as well as donating £300 to the Scottish mobilising committee.

Other Scottish unions that have sponsored transport or delegations include the Scottish regions of the AUT lecturers’ union, which gave £500; Amicus, £100; and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), £300.

Alex Gordon, the RMT rail workers’ union regional secretary for South Wales and the west of England, says, “There was a very successful ESF mobilising meeting of 100 people in Bristol on Thursday of last week.

“The meeting was organised by the Bristol RMT rail branch. There were speakers from the FBU, the postal and telecoms workers’ CWU union, the Stop the War Coalition and the Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers.

“The meeting was an interesting mix of people of different ages and backgrounds. A group of Iraqi Kurds movingly told the meeting about their situation. They have been refused refugee status and are not allowed to work.

“The meeting resolved that the RMT and NUT teachers’ union will help stateless people with funding to come to the forum.”

Clare Williams is the convenor for the Unison public sector union in the north east of England. She says, “We have had successful mobilising meetings in Middlesbrough and Gateshead.

“Some 45 people met in a group coordinating meeting last week. People from community groups, workers with asylum seekers, young people, Stop the War Coalition activists, those involved in the anti-fascist coalition and trade unionists were all there.

“Representatives of the TGWU, GMB, Unison and Natfhe unions were present, as well as from the TUC. People are very keen to meet activists from across Europe and discuss the fight against privatisation, the rise in Islamophobia, and the attacks on pensions.”

Brussels spouts resistance

ACTIVISTS FROM across Europe and beyond will be streaming into Alexandra Palace in London.

Delegates at a packed ESF organisation meeting held in Brussels earlier this month gave a flavour of the sheer scale of the mobilisations in their countries.

Some 2,000 anti-war and anti-capitalist activists will be coming from Germany, including a delegation of 100 from the regular Monday protests in Leipzig against welfare cuts.

A significant delegation is coming from the Spanish state, with over 500 expected from Catalonia alone.

France’s Action Contre la Guerre anti-war group is bringing 500.

Greek activists already estimate 500 will be heading to London. 800 activists are coming from Belgium, some 250 of those organised by the trade union movement.

They also include a group of “sans papiers”—immigrants without permits—who plan to defy Europe’s draconian laws by attempting to come to the event.

Large-scale mobilisations from Eastern European countries are expected. Polish activists have already booked seven coaches, while a further 100 campaigners are coming from the Czech Republic.

‘It’s brilliant and it’s happening on our doorstep’

CAMPAIGNERS IN the north London suburb of Haringey are particularly busy—because the ESF will take place on their doorstep.

“The great thing about this kind of event is the outreach,” says Cathy O’Leary, a youth worker in Haringey.

“It’s such a broad event—it makes you get out and look into organisations you otherwise might not have before,” she says.

The ESF campaigners are contacting every community organisation, tenants’ association and refugee group in the borough to encourage them to get involved.

Campaigners are holding weekly open meetings to coordinate activities in the borough.

The local Labour Party voted to back the ESF last week.

“Haringey has never seen anything like this before,” says Sait Akgul from Haringey Respect. “So many activists will be arriving in the borough—it will be very exciting to meet them.

Cathy O’Leary says, “One good thing we’ve done is get a group of four young people involved with Stop the War to write articles for the local youth magazine talking about ‘Another world is possible’, and what that world would be like.

“We’re going to get a flat-bed truck or an open-top double decker bus and go “guerrilla gigging” about town with a group of young people from Crouch End.

Dave Crouch says, “The Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley was running The Motorcycle Diaries for a week.

“The management agreed to let me make a little announcement about the ESF at the 6pm Saturday showing before the film. The management have taken a whole stack of leaflets.

“I mentioned that Aleida Guevara, Che’s daughter, was coming to the ESF. People were very interested, and left their names and addresses.”

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Sat 18 Sep 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1919
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