Nearly 25,000 people in London for two and a half days of debate, and tens of thousands on a Sunday afternoon closing demonstration — the European Social Forum 2004, on 15-17 October, was well worth attending, despite the rain!
It was more fractious than the previous ESFs, Florence 2002 and Paris 2003, in part because of choices by the organisers and in part because of a build-up of activist frustration at the domination of the big Forum platforms by not-very-radical speakers.
On Saturday evening, a session due to be addressed by Ken Livingstone was taken over by anarchists.
The biggest dividing political issue, however, was Iraq. A large chunk of the Forum fervently backed the Islamist resistance militias in Iraq — and saw that as central.
Solidarity and Workers’ Liberty were the only people putting out leaflets and papers with the contrary view — that we must solidarise with Iraqi workers against both the US/UK occupation and the Islamist militias — but the response to our leaflets showed that many people agreed with us, or were concerned about the issue.
The issue here — whether to orient to the working class, or to any force, however obscurantist, which fights the USA — looks like being the defining one in the coming months and years, both for the global justice movement and for the left in general.