LONDON IS a capital of international finance. One of the things the ESF is about is looking for alternatives to, and looking at the impact of, a world of corporate globalisation.
Britain has also been Bush’s poodle over Iraq. The Florence ESF was vitally important in calling for the world’s largest ever mobilisation against war on February 15 2003. Having the ESF in London is as close as we will get to having one in Washington.
Next year Britain has the presidency of the European Union, is hosting the G8 summit and will have a general election. It’s a crucial year for campaigners and trade unions to argue for a more progressive Britain. The ESF is a chance to discuss this.
Campaigns like the World Development Movement, the Tobin Tax Network, Friends of the Earth and CND have been very active in the ESF process from the very beginning. Lots of other campaigns are involved.
People should, at the very least, be booking the dates in their diaries. But community groups should also help to set the agenda of the ESF. It’s not an event laid on for people—it’s self organised. That’s what makes it the Social Forum.
DAVE TIMMS, World Development Movement
THE PARIS and Florence ESFs brought together huge numbers of people who believed there was a better world to be had.
I hope that the London ESF will have a similar impact on the movement in Britain. I’ve been to many of the organising meetings, and the process of building the ESF is already bringing together a variety of individuals and organisations.
After the Seattle protests in 1999 people talked about bringing together the unions and the anti-capitalist movement. That’s beginning to happen.
Trade unionists should think about putting in suggestions for meetings. Tower Hamlets Unison are organising a joint meeting with the East London community organisation (TELCO) about their joint campaign for a living wage. It has won some successes and we want to share that experience.
Camden Unison are proposing a meeting along with Defend Council Housing, following their victory in defending council housing. The ESF is a chance to share these experiences.
ALISON PHILCOCK, Unison London Regional Committee (personal capacity)
Pushing for solidarity
THE ESF meetings in Paris and Florence were important for trade unionists. In both France and Italy there were widespread strike movements.
In Britain the situation is not quite the same, but there are important issues for workers. There is a threat to the state pension and threats to final salary pension schemes. Britain has, as Blair said, “the toughest anti trade union laws in the Western world”.
The British trade union movement needs to look at the experience of workers in other countries to decide how to fight neo-liberalism.
Trade unionists have pushed to make social justice and solidarity a central theme to the ESF. People will be able to discuss how to organise in the global economy, the problems faced by migrant workers, or debate the future of the welfare state.
It is vital for ordinary union members to raise the issue at their branch in the coming month.
ALEX GORDON, RMT regional secretary
What will happen at the ESF?
THERE WILL be hundreds of meetings, big and small. These will take the form of plenaries, seminars or workshops. Most of these will be “self organised” by groups involved in the ESF.
Cultural events—film, music, dance and theatre—will be integrated into meetings or will take place in spaces around the main venues. A demonstration will take place on the Sunday of the ESF.
Where the event will take place
THE ESF takes place in London around Alexandra Palace in Wood Green, north London, and Bloomsbury in central London from 14 to 17 October.
The big plenaries and seminars at the ESF will take place at Alexandra Palace, a train ride from central London stations. There will be additional space for smaller workshops around Bloomsbury.
How to organise your own meeting
GROUPS AND networks are expected to organise meetings for the ESF. If you are involved in a network, for example a refugee group, a trade union or a campaign, you could organise a meeting.
Plenaries These are the only meetings that are organised by the European Social Forum itself, through a series of assemblies taking place around Europe. They are huge meetings, in spaces holding thousands of participants, simultaneously translated into several languages. They discuss broad themes like US imperialism, or how to fight racism.
Seminars are organised by groups around Europe. Anyone can propose a seminar on behalf of a group or network and decide how it should be run. Simply fill in the form online (www.fse-esf.org) to suggest a title. Different groups can come together to organise joint seminars.
Groups proposing similar titles are encouraged to merge their seminars together. Seminars involving many groups will be allocated larger venues. The ESF will provide full translation facilities for seminars.
Workshops are smaller meetings, usually organised by a single group or network. Fill in the form online (www.fse-esf.org) to suggest a title. Workshops are the simplest meetings to propose. No translation is provided.
Cultural events Anyone can suggest a cultural event they would like to organise. Fill in the form online (www.fse-esf.org) with your suggestion.
Deadline for all seminars and workshops to be proposed, and for seminars to be merged together, is 25 July. Rush your suggestion in before this deadline.
Booking Participants are encouraged to book in advance. Tickets are £30 waged/£20 unwaged.
You can book online at the website below.
Some free or cheap accommodation will be available to people booking in advance. The priority will be to accommodate international and unwaged delegates.
Find out more
Phone 020 8809 5347