European Social Forum: Who put Ken and the SWP in charge?

Submitted by Anon on 5 February, 2004 - 5:23

By Vicki Morris

The third European Social Forum will probably be held in London, and probably in autumn this year. Preparations are underway. The timetable is very short for organising a successful ESF, but those who have put together the London "bid" - the SWP principally - have not let that bother them. Indeed, it is to their advantage, seeking to control the event, to railroad the process now, saying "we have to get on with organisation, no time for discussion". They are alienating many grassroots activists.
A social forum should be a place where many people meet, and its preparation should involve many people. That is the way for it to thrive! That is not happening. Casting aspersions on the organisational structures that had already been set up, the first meeting on 29 January of a new Organising Committee foreshadowed a different type of ESF. If this Committee has its way, the ESF will be a show put on by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, shaped by his representative Redmond O'Neill, member of the secretive and Stalinoid Socialist Action group, and acquiesced in by the SWP, hiding behind their front organisations, for the purposes of recruiting.

It is the mayoral elections this June. Is Ken getting involved in the ESF because he wants help from the left to get re-elected? Is that why he appears to have appointed his bag carrier-in-chief to oversee the ESF in London? Do we want his kind of help? Ken's bag carrier has already provisionally booked Alexandra Palace for the ESF. Did he ask anyone first?

Does Ken want to run the ESF because he wants it to be safe, to pass off "without incident", to keep out the more direct action anti-capitalists that he slags off every May Day?

Does he want a warm-up for his 2012 Olympic bid, to trial some logistical arrangement? Whatever his purpose, his intervention or that of his bag carrier so far has been against the spirit of the European Social Forum. We must fight to keep the European Social Forum open and democratic.

The SWP et al said they wanted to have the forum in London because it is the heart of neo-liberalism, the City, the seat of Blair, the right arm of the New World Order, etcetera, and therefore we need the forum here to show the world that there is opposition in the belly of the beast. We agree. We also need the ESF because it will provide a big boost to our own movements to resist, to build an alternative. With so much opportunity before us, we need the ESF to be as big, broad and inclusive as possible. That is in doubt. All of us are challenged to prevent the hijacking and neutering of the ESF.

The minutes of the first organising committee meeting on 29 January gave no hint of the conflicts going on. We publish them on our website, with comments from Stuart Hodkinson who works for Red Pepper and who has been involved in trying to make the London ESF an open and inclusive process. Visit our ESF page to read more.

  • Some of those seeking to keep the ESF preparations open and democratic are meeting on Saturday 7 February, 12-6pm, room D702, Clement House, Aldwych, London. To join their "democratise_the esf" list, visit
  • The next European preparatory assembly will be in London, 6-7 March, details to follow, or check the original "UK mobilising committee" at

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