Europe: European Social Forum

FORTY-THOUSAND PEOPLE from all over Europe flooded into Florence, Italy, for the European Social Forum, nearly double the number the organisers had been expecting.

European Social Forum

A socialist world is necessary

They were mostly young, taking part in three days of political discussion and debate, culminating in the biggest anti-war demonstration so far.

The right-wing Berlusconi government in Italy tried unsuccessfully to stop the Forum from taking place in Florence. In the days running up to the event, the media was used to try and whip up fears of thousands of violent protesters invading and destroying the historic city.

In fact both the Forum and the anti-war demonstration – which attracted up to one million protesters (see page 3) – passed off totally peacefully.

The sheer numbers attending and participating in the Forum, with Italians far and away the largest group, marked a new stage in the anti-globalisation/anti-capitalist movement.

Thousands of young people in Europe have become radicalised through the anti- globalisation and anti-war movement, taking to the streets in their thousands in Genoa, Barcelona, Seville, London, etc. In Florence, they came in their thousands to discuss ideas and how to take the movement forward.

Topics under discussion in the main conferences included globalisation and liberalism, war and peace, rights, citizenship and democracy. There were also hundreds of seminars taking place every day on a myriad of different issues.

The discussions and debates were hosted and sponsored by an extremely diverse range of social organisations and groups. Unfortunately, political parties were banned from organising any of the main debates at the Forum, instead they were allocated workshops miles away from the main venue.


ALTHOUGH MOST people felt enthusiastic about the size and international character of the Forum, with so many platform speakers putting forward so many different ideas there was no clear alternative or direction coming out of most of the sessions.

Thousands of people attended what was probably the biggest debate on ’movements and political parties’.

The main speaker was Bertinotti, leader of Rifond-azione Comunista (RC), which has a mass base amongst workers in Italy. However, he said that it would be "disastrous" for the RC to give a political lead or direction to the social movements.

In reality, the opposite is the case; the movement needs a clear political direction and alternative if it is to go forward to achieve its aims. The theme of the Forum was ’Another Europe is possible’. Unfortunately, by the end it was no clearer than at the start what kind of Europe or world would be possible.

A trade unionist’s perspective

AS AN active trade unionist I found the European Social Forum (ESF) quite impressive – thousands of people commited to opposing global capitalism, most of them young, discussing and debating issues. Although some of the political messages were a bit confused, at least there was the opportunity to talk about globalisation and its harmful effects, uncommon given the domination of public debate by the capitalist media.

I was pleased to see that a number of trade unions, like UNISON, were supporting the event. The ESF should encourage trade unionists to campaign for closer links between the anti-capitalist movement and the unions, to draw in the organised working class.

As for the future of the ESF, I would like to see less platform speakers, perhaps just two at each discussion, putting different points of view, and allowing for more contributions from ordinary participants. This will help focus minds, and develop strategies for the anti-capitalist movement, so that people leave it with a clear idea of what to do in their own countries, organisations and trade unions.

Roger Bannister, UNISON National Executive Council (Personal Capacity)
From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, England and Wales section of the CWI.

CWI poses a socialist alternative

CWI MEMBERS from Italy, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Greece, Kazakhstan and England and Wales took part in the Forum. In our material, speeches and discussions we emphasised the need to link social movements with the trade unions and struggles in workplaces. Workers’ leader and CWI member Ionor Kurmanov was a platform speaker at a seminar on workers’ rights, where he raised the need for new workers’ parties.

We explained how war, terror, attacks on workers’ rights, racism, environmental destruction and all the others problems discussed at the Forum are rooted in the capitalist system which is based on exploitation, inequality and the pursuit of profit. A political alternative is therefore necessary to fight for a fundamental change in the system and the way society is organised and structured.

Europe-wide protests

ANTI-GLOBALISATION protesters will be demonstrating in Prague at the NATO summit on 20 November and the EU meeting in Copenhagen in December. The next big focus for the anti-globalisation movement in Europe is expected to be a protest at the G8 meeting in Evian, France in June 2003.

At the final rally of the Forum, speakers also raised the idea of a European wide strike within 24 hours of an attack taking place against Iraq.

CWI online

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November 2002