European social forum: Time to put forward a socialist alternative

The second European Social Forum (ESF) is taking place in Paris from 12 to 15 November. The first one in Florence was a success, particularly with the involvement of young people, workers and trade unionists in the closing demonstrations.

The almost one million participants showed how people could be mobilised to fight neo-liberalism and capitalism. This year the ESF will look at the tremendous international anti-war movement and the re-emergence of the European working class as a powerful and determined opponent of the European governments and the European Union.

However, it must also look forward and, as stated in the document ’What is the European Social Forum’, discuss how a "different Europe is possible and outline the ways and means of achieving it".

Over the last year almost every proposed neo-liberal reform by the European ruling class has been met with resistance. In France, millions marched and struck against the pension reform of the Raffarin government. In Austria, the pressure of the workers to resist similar measures lead to the calling of a general strike by the trade union leadership.

Years of anti-social reform in Sweden, to prepare for entry into the Euro, lead to the defeat of the establishment in the Euro referendum. In Germany pressure is building to fight against Schroeder’s ’Agenda 2010’, a brutal attack on unemployment benefits, the health service, workers protection against redundancies, pensions, working hours, etc…(see page 9)

Political strategy

The ESF brings together a large number of community based organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and trade unions. It could be an interesting forum to exchange experiences and ideas with hundreds of activists who have been actively involved in the anti-war movement or in the social movements.

The challenge the ESF faces is to formulate a strategy and political programme on the basis of which these struggles can be won. How can we, for example, build the movement against the US/UK occupation of Iraq? How can we build it in the workplaces? How can workers win back control of trade unions in countries where they have been hijacked by a bureaucracy in ’partnership’ with the government?

When the ESF, as the anti-war movement grew, answered the question of "what comes next?" by calling for international demonstrations on 15 February it received a magnificent response. An estimated 30 million people turned out for the biggest international show of solidarity this world has ever witnessed. Of course, the turn-out was a result of more factors than the call to arms from the ESF; nevertheless we applauded the initiative and worked to build the demos.

New mass workers’ parties

The majority trend in the ESF stands for the exclusion of political parties, arguing that this will prevent any party using the authority of the ESF. In our view this is a mistake – we need to challenge the parties who are implementing neo-liberal policies like privatisation of public services, education cuts, pension cuts etc.

New, mass workers’ parties need to be developed to unite the struggles of different layers of workers and youth to challenge capitalism and fundamentally change society. These ideas need to be debated within the ESF.

The Committee for a Workers’ International (the socialist international to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) would argue inside new mass parties for a socialist programme. We would also defend every gain made in past struggles and fight to win more concessions from the ruling class in new battles.

Socialist programme

Capitalism is a system based on the exploitation of the huge majority of working class people and youth by a tiny minority who control the economy and all the resources in society. Our aim is to take the main industries into public ownership as part of a socialist, democratically planned economy and use those resources for everyone.

The anti-globalisation movement has played a very important role in opening the eyes of millions of people to the brutality of the present system and its rulers. The barrage of attacks by the establishment on the working and living conditions of millions of people make it clear that capitalism is no longer capable of developing our societies economically, socially or environmentally. It is time for the anti-globalisation movement to present and argue for an alternative, and in our view that has to be a socialist alternative.

From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales

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