European Social Forum 2004

Submitted by libcom on January 8, 2004

Archived web feature about the 2004 European Social Forum and autonomous organising efforts within and outside it.

The third annual European Social Forum (ESF) will take place from 15-17 October in London. The European Social Forum was launched from the World Social Forum (2001) meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Its first two massive gatherings were in Florence (2002) and Paris (2003).

It is anticipated that thousands of people will come to London for meetings, discussions, workshops, and protests and actions. Currently it looks like the main themes of the ESF will focus on war, environmental crisis, poverty, racism & asylum, Labour & Privitisation / Neoliberalism and Europe. But hundreds of other events will take place at the same time. The main venue will be Alexandra Palace in north London, and the Bloomsbury area south of Kings Cross. There will be two main days, with a large official demonstration on the third day.

The ESF should be, according to the official website "a unique opportunity where social movements, trade unions, NGOs, refugees, peace and anti-imperialist groups, anti-racist movements, environmental movements, networks of the excluded and community campaigns from Europe and the world can come together to discuss how to achieve global social justice for all and debate ways of making 'another world possible".

However, the truth has been a slightly different matter, with the ESF's democratic constitution being sidelined by big organisations, notably Ken Livingston's Greater London Authority. To get into the Forum you will now have to cough up at least £30.

Autonomous spaces and intiatives
This information is from the Indymedia UK Newswire:

Autonomous Spaces During the ESF in London, 13-17th October 2004.
We want to create open spaces for networking, exchanges, celebration, thinking, and action. We believe our ways of organising and acting should reflect our political visions, unlike the UK ESF organising process which has not reflected the values and charters to which it aspires.

Some of us believe that it is possible to rebuild the ESF to make it closer to the ideals it claims, others wish to go further and say that it only represents a space for the co-option of struggles, and as such, should be opposed. However we are all united in our diversity, and in our desire to act together in ways that respect these differences.

There are now several self organised and autonomous spaces - they range from legally hired venues to squatted social centres.We invite you to participate in the autonomous spaces, to help shape them, to organise workshops, discussions, creative interventions, and practical alternatives.

You can find the latest listings of events here. (8 Sept. 2004)

Whats wrong with the 'official' ESF?
The problem with the ESF is that its organising process is overly controlled by old left political parties. While it is supposed to belong to all of the grass roots groups and campaigns that make up the 'movement of movements' - here in the UK, the organising process is under the control of the SWP (Socialist Workers Party), Socialist Action and the GLA (Greater London Authority - Mayor Ken Livingstone's mob).

Sadly this has made the entire organising process unaccountable, untransparent, non-participatory, exclusionary and downright unrepresentitive. While some people (calling themselves the 'horizontals') have tried to work within the process to make it more transparent, they are increasingly frustrated. At the same time many other European organisers are becoming seriously concerned over the state of the UK process.

Make no mistake, there will still be thousands of people at the ESF in October, but many of them will be oblivious to the sham of an organising process. However when the core values of the event are missing from the way it is organised, something has to be done. Bellow are links to articles written about the absence of democracy in the ESF organising commitee:

  • Major UK NGO's Criticise ESF Organising Process + SWP / SA
  • ESF rejects democracy for TU cash
  • UK ESF - concrete outcomes and suggestions...
  • ESF-UK efforts -- breakthrough!
  • Sign-on statement to democratise the ESF!


  • - the 'official' website for the ESF.
  • - the unofficial website for people looking to organise horizontally within the ESF.
  • - organising autonomous spaces during the ESF.
  • - the Indymedia UK feature site on the ESF.
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