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ESF: Between resistance and co-opting

18. October 2004

by Lars Akerhaug

London the weekend 15th to 17th of October 20,000 people gathered to co-ordinate the forces against war, the occupation of Iraq, the EU constitution, neo-liberalism and many other important issues. The forum was important before the big rallies the 15th of February, and crucial to mobilize the anti war-movement. Hundreds of seminars and workshops raised questions from both north and south. And even if most of the participants were white intellectuals, also important questions like the resistance in Iraq, Plan Colombia, the campaign against the neo-liberal constitution of Brussels and other anti-imperialist issues were visible.

Still, most of the attention was on the sponsors and official protectors of the conference. ESF in London has bound itself to economical support from Labour-mayor Ken Livingstone, and pro-occupation trade unions loyal to the Labour party. And the resistance against the war party Labour came into the ESF when 200 anarchists “seized” the plenary platform from Ken Livingstone at the forum Saturday 16th of October.

Collaborators at the ESF

But the most important differences came to the fore under the seminars on the anti-war movement and the occupation. The most showing example was the invitation of Subhi Mashadani, from the “Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions”, the only “union” acknowledged by the Anglo-American occupation dictatorship. He has toured Britain as a “representative” of trade unions in Iraq. But he has not told about how the US occupiers daily kill and destroy civilian lives. He does not tell about the bombings of Fallujah. He tells about why it`s important that the US does not withdraw.

In 1961 Franz Fanon wrote in “the wretched of the earth”: “The colonizer and his victims has known each other from a long time. The colonizer is even also correct when he says he knows `them`. It is he who has created them, and he is continuously creating them. He finds his truth, that is to say; his richness, in the system he has created…” (translation from norwegian edition).

Mushadani is one of those today`s colonizers find their truth in. This is why he was also met with resistance. More than a thousand people gathered to listen to the debate “End the Occupation of Iraq” with Mushadani attending, covered by lifeguards. As soon as he was called by the chair to speak, more than a hundred people rose up and yelled “collaborators out, shame on you”! The result was that the Iraqi quisling was forced to leave the stage.

It might be that instead of stopping the meeting, those protesting should instead have made their point and left, thus also making clear their antagonism against the leadership of the ESF. But the responsibility of the whole affair is not to be placed on those who reacted against this quisling, but it belongs to those who invited him. And not least to those organizations who disagree profoundly with Mushadani, among them the important Stop the War Coalition in UK, but who still did not pressure him to step down. They accepted the pressure from labour-loyal unions to invite him. Again we see the same tendencies as in WSF in Mumbai, where the big NGOs, the American sponsored “Ford Foundation” and the social-democratic CPI(M) blocked the voices of the resistance. Or from Lula`s Brazil, place of the next World Social Forum, where FARC from Colombia and other liberation armies are not accepted as participants.

ESF stands unclear on the constitution

Debates around the new constitution of the European Union were thorough. The final call from the ESF launches march 19th as an international day of action against the constitution which is to be approved in Brussels 22-23rd of March 2005. But here again the ESF puts itself in a pitch. The forum does not answer to the very clear question the people of Europe are facing: For or against the new proposition for a charter for the European Union. Again the leadership of the ESF demonstrates how they try to distract the social movements from important issues for the working class and the people.

Athens Resistance?

Many have said, with partly good reasons, that there are many democratic problems in the ESF. Which is also true, but this is not the biggest problem. The problem is in that a row of organizations, like UK Socialist Workers Party (who were the most visible single body at the forum) don´t take the consequences of their own political views.

The SWP claims to support the resistance: then you cannot let the forum become dependent of forces today supporting, or at least not fighting, the occupation. The lesson to be drawn is that if you are against the occupation of Iraq, you must also support the resistance. The next ESF is bound for Athens. There, both resistance against the EU and the support for anti-imperialist issues like Iraq is strong. Could we hope for an Athens Resistance?

Also published in Norwegian in monthly of the Workers Communist Party, AKP.NO