OLIVIER BESANCENOT is the young postal worker who shocked the French establishment when he won 1.2 million votes standing as a revolutionary socialist in the presidential election in April last year. One in seven of the people under 25 who voted backed Olivier. He is a leading member of the socialist Revolutionary Communist League. He spoke to Socialist Worker about the build-up in France towards the European Social Forum.
'The ESF will be a major event,' says Olivier. 'Trade union activists, NGOs and political parties from the left, coming from all over Europe, will discuss the consequences of corporate globalisation, as well as alternative models of society and how to get it. 'It will also be a new opportunity for debate on different conceptions of relationships between social movements and political parties.
'The real divide should be between a neo-liberal and reformist 'left' on one side, and the radical and anti-capitalist left on the other. 'The ESF will be about deepening the connections between the anti-capitalist movement and social questions globally, and in relation to the European Union.' There is already a major mobilisation under way in France for the ESF. 'Meetings have taken place to build for it in towns across the country,' says Olivier.
'Gathering thousands of people from other countries, especially from European countries, is one of the most important challenges the ESF faces. 'The ESF will offer a great opportunity to strengthen links between fighting sectors of the working class and youth, beyond any borders. 'The ESF in Florence was the beginning of the building of a huge anti-war movement.
'All of us know that the anti-war movement has been very powerful in Britain. 'So the attendance of British activists will help to have interesting debates about that experience. 'The forum will be a theatre for political debate between the different currents that exist inside the anti-globalisation movement.' There will be a mass demonstration on the final day of the forum, on 15 November. Olivier says, 'That demonstration is of course one more reason to come in numbers to Paris.'
The forum is taking place against the backdrop of huge strikes and demonstrations over attacks on pensions in France earlier this year. 'The protest movement in early summer was even more powerful than the one we had with the public sector workers' strikes in November and December 1995,' says Olivier.
'It was not, however, powerful enough to force the right wing government to abandon its pensions project. 'But then 300,000 people gathered in Larzac in the south of France in solidarity with José Bové, the spokesman of the Peasant Confederation, and against the World Trade Organisation summit in Cancun. 'Also during the heatwave over the summer several thousand elderly people died just because there was not enough room in hospitals.
'The lack of legitimacy of the right wing government is more obvious than ever. 'This can lead to new social disputes, although nobody can really predict where and when, and what the topic of movements will be.'
Travel with the English Mobilisation for the ESF on our Eurostar train to Paris Don't miss out... Book now! Tickets cost between £89 and £125 (depending on income) and include return Eurostar train ticket from London to Paris, individual ESF registration fee and accommodation space (bring your own sleeping bag) Phone now on 020 7053 2072 or go to www.mobilise.org.uk