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SWP/GR (solitary wanker party) hijacks 2004 ESF (European Social Forum) process

Hamish Campbell | 26.01.2004 14:55 | European Social Forum | Globalisation | Repression | London | Oxford

The European Social Forum is supposed to be a non hierarchical gathering of grass roots alternatives to the traditional political process.

At the London meeting a few days ago the solitary wanker party in bed with the GLA (London assembly) disrupted the organising meeting, as they did with the last one, no discussion or decisions could be made. At the last moment after 1/3 of the meeting called for the amendment of the proposal they were pushing through, and after refusing to read out the list of proposed amendments with out turning it into a SWP/GR/GLA political statement they closed the meeting, handing out a sheet of paper saying if you didn’t sign this, that is agreed to the their proposal, then you wouldn’t be allowed to participate in the formation of their ESF Steering committee. Agree with the solitary wankers party or you will be excluded from the ESF process.

Throughout the whole ESF London organising they have disrupted and controlled the process. The process has been far from “open and accountable” The London ESF is becoming a farce and a disgrace. The majority of people still want it to happen, however, a small group in the shadows are disrupting and polluting the whole ESF movement. The WSF and ESF are forums for the social moments that created the humane globalization movement explicitly not for the old dogmatic left political parties.

It’s hard to say what can be done with this situation as these people have long experiences of packing meetings, manipulating chairs, imposing agendas and telling lies through nit-picking truth. The globalisation movement has no experiences, or stomach, from this kind of behaviour and avoids it by working in very different ways.

Hamish Campbell
ESF practicalities/culture/media working groups

Notes: for non alt-ghetto readers the SWP are an authoritarian unreconstructed socialist party. GR (Globalise Resistances is a “front” organisation for the SWP). The GLA is run by Ken Livingston who has recently re-joined the Labour party – that’s Tony Blear and the UK government.


* Mobilise lists (non official organising lists)
* Democratise_the esf list (non official organising list)
* esf_culture homepage (ESF working group)
* esf_media homepage (ESF working group)
* Early stage open website
* Closed website

If the are more resources please add them as comments. A WIKY is needed to facilitate the overall agenda and working groups.

Hamish Campbell
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- Homepage:


Hide the following 17 comments

'packing meetings'

26.01.2004 15:57

I keep hearing this accusation against the SWP, they 'pack meetings'. What does that mean exactly? Don't tell me it just means getting off their arses and turning up, shocking behaviour, don't they know they're supposed to be as ineffectual as other lefties?


very Zen

26.01.2004 16:11

I'm impressed the Socialist Workers can simultaneously control and disrupt the process! Also that they can "tell lies through nit-picking truth". I guess that's what you call dialectics, interaction of opposites and all that...


Random Reader

26.01.2004 16:21

Just to make this clear - for me the problem is not that the SWP "pack meetings" or "control/disrupt" them (and yes, you can easily do both!) or whatever, these are red herrings. The real problem is:




Is that clear?

Robert Carlye

Packing etc

26.01.2004 17:22

"Packing meetings" means mobilising enough people to enforce your narrow objectives on supposedly broad alliances. It is the evil twin of getting off your arse to put your case effectively.

The SWP/GR are the reigning British champions at packing meetings. Some of their more spectacular recent coups include: (A) bringing in people who had never been involved in the Socialist Alliance to candidate selection meetings in Wales, the AGM of Birmingham SA and the AGM of Bedford SA. The extra people mobilised to make sure that they got their way in important meetings (ie the candidate of the SWP's choice in Wales and the purging of people who disagree with them in Birmingham and Bedford), had never been involved in the organisation before and were never involved again.

There are quite literally far too many examples of the SWP doing this kind of thing to bother listing here. I don't have all year. The point is that this behaviour is about enforcing your control of supposedly broad campaigns and alliances.

Such behaviour almost always results in the destruction of the campaign. Everyone else is faced with the choice of trying to outmobilise them or letting them have their way. Either way, the whole thing dissolves in accrimony and most unaffiliated people are put off.

The complaint about what they are doing in the ESF may seem to be contradictory. How can they be controlling and disrupting the ESF at the same time? The answer is that they are disrupting any chance of a useful, open and democratic ESF by trying to control the process.

So far we have had backroom deals, excluding most of those who wish to be involved. We have had the official structures of the mobilisation being prevented from doing their jobs. We have had threats and attempts to paint anyone who raises the issue of democracy as "wreckers". The SWP and GLA are trying to make it clear that they own the ball, and everyone else is only welcome to play by the rules they choose.

This is abhorrent to the very concept of a European Social Forum. I would love to see an ESF in London. I fear though that the SWP/GLA roadshow will be unrecognisable as any such thing.

Alphonse Giardella


26.01.2004 19:21

To any person present at this week-end's Uk Assembly it was made crystal-clear that the only disruptive elements were people totally opposed to any attempt to try and get the London bid for next ESF seriously off the ground. These people are obviously against any kind of organising structure, by principle.
The document presented to the assembly had been drafted by major trade unions and the GLA . These organisations are among the ones without which a ESF in the UK cannot happen, would have no chance whatsoever of taking place. If those opposed to the document were remotely willing to start organising themselves efficiently , they wouldn't have tried shouting like lunatics throughout the meeting. The above mentioned organisations and the main NGOs in this country who DO want the ESF process started realized they needed a base document that could be endorsed urgently by as many campaigning organisations as possible. They are not used to attending countless meetings that produce no results. They all have to answer to their memberships and their branches before pledging any participationin the ESF, would it be financially or with human resources.
As was made quite clear, this document can easily be amended as tre process goes ahead, but it needs to be for a start.

It is high time people stop this childish unproductive GR and/or SWP bashing. these organisations ARE efficient, produce results, they campaign, they do work in the real world. E-wankers and troublemakers seem to enjoy just doing what they are.
Grow up, get a life or start doing something useful for a change !

Stephane Popovic. GR steering committee member. [non affiliated]


26.01.2004 20:33

"Meanwhile the European Social Forum (ESF) is gearing up for its next meeting in London in November, accompanied by criticism that it is turning into a 'front' for the SWP. 'The ESF involves normal people in non-hierarchical ways of working and structures which present a real alternative to corporate control' said one non SWP activist. 'There has been a bit of trouble, because there are people coming in who're inspired by the new way of working, but who still have the old rank and file mentality.' Still, the very size of the nascent Forum (60,000 people at the ESF in Florence) suggests that hardline SWP-ers will find themselves in a powerless minority. 'It's probably where they're most comfortable' said another activist, kindly."

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These left wing lunatics are ruining it all!

26.01.2004 22:24

This so-called SWP is an absolute disgrace packing political events again and again.

For example on the 15 February last year they even managed to pack 2 million people into the streets of London to protest against the war. And they didn't even consult me about it!

This sort of thing is against my anarchist non-hierarchical horizontal way of organising (ie dozing in an armchair) and should be stopped immediately.


Response to stephane

26.01.2004 23:17


the esf is about dialogue. As you will no doubt be aware an organising structure is already very much in place. It was agreed upon, without difficulty, at the esf european meeting previously held in london. What is needed is gretaer coordination & communication.

Which brings us back to alex gordon's proposal. If he'd would adhered to the defining principles of the esf in presenting his proposal - that is consulted all the relevant actors, made the proposal open to enquiry & created a dialogue whereby an agreement could be reached that all concerned could work with - instead of issuing demands & veiled threats (if you don't agree to this 'the unions' will withdraw their support & the esf won't take place).

The social forum is a new way of working together with people. It is unfortunately one where the more traditional thinking authoritarian types have trouble comprehending. It is not about issuing orders, demands, it is not about steering, it is about each & every one of us coming together equally to create something worth participating in.

Doubtless one day you will learn to appreciate that.


Spot the SWP hacks

26.01.2004 23:30

Thank you Stephane for illustrating exactly the kind of bullying behaviour that is being criticised here. You couldn't be a better spokesperson for GR.

Meccanno, when exactly did the SWP get 2 million people on the streets? They bureaucratically control the top reaches of one of the three organisations that jointly called some big protests, that's all. And the Daily Mirror mobilised more people than CND, the Stop the War Coalition and the Muslim Association of Britain put together.

Bob the Party Builder

they need to give people a chance

27.01.2004 03:27

the swp needs to give people a chance. they have ideas too. there's more to revolution than selling newspapers. revolutionaries need to move beyond looking after the sectional interests of their party, faction, idea.

grassroots activist

Rather funny

27.01.2004 11:56

You accuse others of being authoritarian, and then dismiss other people on the left as "w*nkers"

You call for everyone to come to a meeting and denounce others for "packing meetings"

You claim to represent the real Social Forum movement, while ignoring it's whole basis as all of us cooperating together despite our differences.

You say you want unity, yet call anyone who differs in their analysis a "Party hack" or "The Enemy"

You throw hissy fits about being the real movement, while none of you were in Genoa or Florence.

All I can say is thank goodness I'm up here in Scotland away from all you wannabe anti-authoritarians, who seem to be as authoritarian and sectarian as it is possible to be.



In out, In out, Shake it All About!

27.01.2004 12:14

The sidelining of the opreviously agreed working groups does stink.

I think the SWP axis stinks too.

But I really don't believe the ESF can be organised without the Trade Unions and big NGOs, who take the lead from the old organisers with experience.

As for the GLA - Ken Labour Party Livingstone Blair - well to me that runs 100% counter to the ESF core principles - ie no party political involvement, and hey, shouldn't that include the Socialist Workers PARTY?

I dunno. It's either take a stand on principles, which some people seem to have been doing trying to push for more grass roots democratic and participatory processes, or stand back and allow the SWP to organise the whole thing off the ground the way they want it.

I really believed that here in the uk "Another Forum IS Possible!". The more I read about the meetings and disagreements the more I doubt this.

There is still a lot of potential to make the London ESF a more participative space, and there will be many ways of doing this in the coming months, but i doubt that at the highest levels this can be true.

"You're either with us, or against us" is the phrase which keeps popping into my head when I've been reading about the meetings over the last few months...


some suggestions

27.01.2004 13:21

Seems to me there's very little point complaining that the SWP are acting in a centralised Leninist fashion, they are after all self-declared Leninists.

Question is what to do? You could boycott the ESF which will probably go ahead anyway. Or you could stay in there and try to argue your own position.

But that will necessarily involve clarifying what that position actually is. Do you want the ESF to break from Ken Livingstone + the GLA? Do you want parties banned (and really that'd have to be all parties incl. Greens as well as SWP)? How do you feel about trade union involvement?

Just some thoughts...


response to Sonic

27.01.2004 17:34

> You accuse others of being authoritarian, and then dismiss other people on the left as "w*nkers"

I agree that this is totally unhelpful. Please try to understand, though, that such comments usually come from a very real anger at SWP manipulation over a long period of time.

> You call for everyone to come to a meeting and denounce others for "packing meetings"

There is a distinction between:

1. Encouraging a diverse section of people to come to a meeting, with no prior knowledge or control over what they will say, hoping they will get involved in the process.

2. Coercing people from your own group to come to a meeting, knowing the kind of line they will parrot, for the purpose of getting your own way.

> You claim to represent the real Social Forum movement, while ignoring it's whole basis as all of us cooperating together despite our differences.

Perhaps that's how it seems to you, but to us it seems that basic democratic principles are being violated, and we have to try and stop it. We would love to co-operate as equals but as long a few groups are trying to dominate, this is impossible.

>You say you want unity, yet call anyone who differs in their analysis a "Party hack" or "The Enemy"

Again, I agree that this is totally unhelpful to any project which is meant to involve us all working together. Again, please understand that these viewpoints are the result of years of bitter experience of the SWP and their ilk.

>You throw hissy fits about being the real movement, while none of you were in Genoa or Florence.

Bollocks bollocks bollocks. We were. Not only that, but we were doing a million other things too. We could probably argue indefinitely about which tendencies have contributed the most to the 'Movement', and I think we will have to agree to disagree. Both sides, though, should at least acknowledge that the other has contributed *something*, no matter how trivial.

> All I can say is thank goodness I'm up here in Scotland away from all you wannabe anti-authoritarians, who seem to be as authoritarian and sectarian as it is possible to be.

I think you're completely wrong, and I think I've explained why.


Reply to Dean (from Stephane)

27.01.2004 17:37


I do not diagree with the fact that the ESF is a space open for all and that the main goal is to work together in order to bring about issues we are all concerned by. There always will be frictions and disagreements, that is part of the democratic process. but I am sure we all have some strong common ground and we should all we work on that better and in a much more friendly and cooperative way. What made me angry is seeing people so disrespectful of speech time allocated to those who had queued and finding themselves cut short and insulted .
to come back to the very point of "Alex gordon's" proposal, my understanding is that the organisations who drafted the document did possibly feel there was not enough time to circulate it widely before the Assembly and wait and wait and wait till everybody reached an agreement on it (which let's be honest would have taken ages ... if we just take how the meeting proceeded as a benchmark!). I am not saying it was acalculated tactic/manoeuvre/plot to put a gun to the Assembly's head to adopt it, I think they genuinely only had time to draft it and circulate to the organisations they felt the support of which was needed most, at that time, and just for a start.
the bulk of the document is undoubtedly of a scope and a quality that would satisfy most organisations, campaigning groups and even individuals. When it comes to the finer details- or the small prints, there is space for everyone to discuss, reshape, amend, etc... i do think this document arrived at a time it was badly needed, as the starting blocks of the process to build this ESF.
I am not acrimonious, not am I the kind of person who likes to pursue unfair vendettas. I am certain we all can work together to make this ESF happen.
I am very much willing - as I always have been - to work with all people of goodwill.
Let's not fight windmills :-)


Stephane - globalise resistance


30.01.2004 15:57

How can they be a "Solitary Wanker Party" *and* be "in bed" with the GLA?


no but don't you see Stan?

03.02.2004 17:29

The ESF has been taken over by tiny unrepresentative sects like the Trade Unions and the London Assembly, where it should belong to mass movements like, er, me and my flatmates.