PREPARATIONS ARE gathering pace for the European Social Forum (ESF) in Florence, Italy, from 7 to 10 November. The ESF is modelled on the World Social Forum that met in Porto Alegre, Brazil, this year and last. It will be a focus for those resisting capitalist globalisation everywhere in Europe.
About 300 activists took part in a preparatory meeting for the ESF in Thessaloniki, Greece, the weekend before last. They included delegates from the most of the main anti-capitalist networks in Europe, including the Italian Social Forum movement, ATTAC in France, Globalise Resistance in England and Scotland, and the Genoa 2001 campaign and International Action in Greece.
Trade union support for the forum is growing. A representative of the European TUC attended the Thessaloniki meeting. In Austria the railway union has booked a special train from Vienna to Florence.
Despite the growing support for the ESF, there are major political divisions within the movement.
The right wing inside ATTAC, who want to build up the nation-state as a counterweight to global capitalism and are wary of mass mobilisation, recently strengthened their position. But delegates at Thessaloniki were much more open to the argument that the ESF should be a focus for activists to prepare for future mobilisations. The meeting recommended that the ESF should include a demonstration against neo-liberalism, racism and war.
It was agreed that there should be major sessions at Florence devoted to the Palestinian struggle, to the strategy of the movement, and to building for protests against the next G8 summit in France next year. The Thessaloniki meeting also marked a shift on the issue of political parties. The World Social Forum formally excludes political parties and has been insisting that the ESF should follow its example.
But the existence within the movement of a variety of distinct political currents is a reality that cannot be ignored. Moreover, the ban has not prevented reformist parties-for example, the Brazilian Workers Party-from using the World Social Forum.
The Blairite Left Democrats, who control Florence, may try to do the same to the ESF. At Thessaloniki it was agreed that not only can parties attend the ESF as members of national anti-capitalist coalitions, but they can organise workshops as part of the official programme.
These decisions reflect the fact that, under the impact of the anti-war movement, and the strikes and protests in Italy and Spain, anti-capitalist radicalisation is growing in Europe. The chances are that the European Social Forum will both reflect and contribute to this radicalisation.
To register for the European Social Forum or to get publicity material visit www.resist.org.uk or phone 020 8981 3005 or visit the ESF website www.mobilise.org.uk