A mass Europe-wide movement against privatisation and war is set to be launched in November. Tens of thousands of trade unionists and activists are preparing to gather at the European Social Forum (ESF) in Florence, Italy, to plan resistance. Many different groups are supporting the event.
Amnesty International is encouraging its thousands of members to take part in what it calls an 'important initiative'. Globalise Resistance (GR) is one of the groups at the heart of building for the event. Nick Dearden from the GR steering committee explained why the ESF will be so much more than another demonstration: 'The ESF is about giving the anti-capitalist movement a permanent presence. We are not just following the capitalist summits around the globe, but creating the permanent alliances necessary to exert pressure for change-and create a new society in waiting. So it's absolutely vital that this succeeds. people really need to give it a top priority. Florence won't be the end but the beginning of the call for a new society. And when we come back from this mobilisation we will have a movement stronger than we have seen to date.'
Asad Rehman from the anti-racist Newham Monitoring Project and the Stop the War Coalition told Socialist Worker, 'The challenges are on all fronts-the rush to war, racism, globalisation. 'In the past our movement has been too fragmented. The ESF is a unique opportunity to work together for real change.'
The main themes of the forum include globalisation and neo-liberalism, and the drive to war. There will also be many unofficial discussions and cultural events. A demonstration against racism and war is being planned. Tony Phillips, a union branch secretary in the London fire service, explained why it is important to give people a sense of what will happen at the forum.
'At our last branch meeting we invited a speaker from Globalise Resistance, Naima. She spoke about war and racism as well as things like privatisation. She went down really well, and the vote to support the ESF was unanimous. We explained that this wasn't just a counter-demo, but the launch of a mass movement against neo-liberalism across Europe. People were really enthusiastic. Five have registered to go and are booked on the plane already. Two of them are manual workers.'
Taking off in unions
THE EUROPEAN Social Forum is attracting unprecedented levels of trade union backing. The national conference of the giant public sector union Unison voted to give the event official support. The rail workers' RMT union London Regional Council agreed to back the ESF last week.
Unjum Mirza has been delegated to Florence from his RMT branch. He told Socialist Worker: 'The ESF is fantastically important. Global capital knows no boundaries-international solidarity should not either. People should move quickly to get delegated to go from their branches.'
Mac McKenna, also from the RMT, explained to Socialist Worker: 'The ESF raises the question of how we can really fight privatisation, especially now Livingstone has given up. I am going to Florence and at least five or six others from my union branch are just sorting out leave so they can come.'
Alison Philcock, a council worker from east London, is helping to publicise the ESF among trade unionists. She described to Socialist Worker how the campaign is going: 'The response is really taking off. Lots of trade unionists want to make the unions relevant to a new generation of activists. On the council workers' picket lines the ESF went down really well. At the strikers' rally the biggest cheer was for a speaker who talked about how Blair was sucking up to Berlusconi. That really struck a chord. People know we need to organise internationally and this is a great chance to do it.'
Delegations of workers are being organised across the country. Postal workers from London, Watford, Merseyside and Cardiff are all travelling to Florence. A civil servants' union branch in Nottingham agreed to donate £100 towards the travel expenses of members wishing to go.
European Social Forum, Florence, 7-10 November
For sign-up sheets and model motions supporting the ESF go to www.resist.org.uk or phone 020 8981 3005.
To register go to www.mobilise.org.uk or www.fse-esf.org