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Balanced and Objective ESF 2004 Report :-)

Lucy Davis | 24.02.2004 10:46 | European Social Forum

If there is anyone out there in the UK who is (still?) paying attention to the possible UK ESF this year, here's my balanced and objective (nudge nudge, wink wink) quick update of events that've occurred these last few weeks. [written February 16]

-- A group calling itself the UK Organising Committee for the European
Social Forum 2004 (London) began meeting recently on Thurday evenings. This
meeting is supposedly public, accessible to all, with minutes being taken
and circulated promptly, with rotating meeting chairpeople and equality in
speaking/access to the floor. (guffaw....) Other than the time/place, any
resemblance to truth in the above section is entirely coincidental!! In
reality the meeting is always at the Greater London Assembly building, with
personal security searches thrown in for free. It is always chaired by the
same two people (Maureen O'Mara (NATFHE) and Alex Gordon (RMT)) with the
Mayor's Mouth (Redmond O'Neill) sitting next to them, making sure they say
The Right Thing and who gets preferential rights to shout down anyone who's
saying something he doesn't like, for as long as it takes him to ram his
point home.

-- The above established an elite, smaller "Coordinating Committee" that
will meet (in private, no minutes) at 2pm in the afternoon on Fridays. It
must be noted that no decision has ever been taken, in any meeting, about
who they are and how they've been nominated. Terms for exclusion from these
meetings ... Will be drawn up by the constituents of this meeting. (The
proverbial fox guarding henhouse situation springs to mind)

-- The temporary Working Groups have ceased to exist, there are no new
Working Groups. Instead the new, all-powerful elite "Coordinating Committee"
is deciding everything of importance... And re-deciding a few things that it
didn't like the first time around.

-- However, the UK ESF still has no bank account, no legal
constitution/organisation and no set level of affiliation fees.

-- The Programme Group (old) no longer exists. Instead there is ...
Ta-daaaa... A Programme Group (new). Now, only affiliated organisations can
speak/vote (write your cheque and cast your vote: the bigger the cheque, the
more votes you get!!). Apparently non-affiliated are invited to witness the
momentous events. And the meetings are very conveniently being held all
over the country (NOT!) at a reasonable time of day (NOT). I do pity poor
Dave Timms of the World Development Movement, who's been doing his darndest
to get a voice to report back from the Programme Group (old) at the GLA,
without much success. If you want a copy of their report, please email me
privately and I'll send one.

-- There are now rumors that 2005 is an option... the Mayor's Mouth O'Neill
seems to like the idea of January 2005. (oooh, when its even *warmer* than
in November so the folks who aren't paid by parties and unions can put up
tents in the parks and bask in the heat). The big union rep, Alex Gordon,
from the RMT apparently liked the idea as well. So there you go, it must be
OK then!

-- The entrance fee being discussed for the participants at the forum will
be between £25 and £35. Please note that the scale for individuals in Paris
and Florence was much lower and in reality 60% of attendees won concessions
there. The Mayor's Mouth has voiced his concern that we must make sure that
there's none of that soft treatment going on here in London! Profits first!
Only 20% will get concessions, of 20%.

-- Recently the self-appointed UK Organising Committee had a Brasilian-based
WSF organiser in attendance who was invited to speak. He pointed out that
under WSF principles, the UK process cannot be run by the government in
power (that is, Labour) and that meetings shouldn't be taking place at the
GLA. Oops, crisis?! Naa, get out the wood-chip wallpaper and start papering
over those obvious cracks.

-- This fact -- that the Labour-affiliated GLA is driving the UK ESF
process -- is a *large* source of concern to the European level assembly
members, who will be coming to London March 6/7 for a meeting whose outcome
will decide whether or not there will be an ESF (London) 2004

-- A group of activists from many backgrounds -- networking
(dis)organisations, local Social Forums from around the UK, feminists,
anarchists, etc. -- and from all over Europe have got together and call
themselves the "horizontals". Which refers to their preferred methods of
organising and communicating... As opposed to the traditional methods used
by "verticals" (in this case, shorthand for traditional party and union

-- The horizontals are deeply concerned about the flawed nature of the
organising and the process for this UK ESF, about its overtly commercial
basis and about the control the Mayor's Office is exerting in concert with
the SWP. This in an atmosphere where most civil society groups are being
left out of the process, with the exception of big NGOs. In addition, the
horizontals are concerned about the very short amount of time to prepare and
about the lack of space for these independent groups to participate with the
planning and practicalities.

-- The horizontals met recently to collectively decide a way forward. They
are drawing up two documents for presentation at the March 6/7 European
Assembly: a summary of changes they'd like AND a chronology of events thus
far. They've also presented a formal proposal for a legal framework upon
which the UK ESF organising might be based. This has disappeared into the
guts of the GLA somewhere, probably never to be seen again.

Upcoming meetings:
-- Inaugural meeting of the Programme Working Group (new): TODAY. 16
February at 5.30pm at Unison headquarters, 1 Mabledon Place, London.

-- the UK ESF Organising Committee: Every THURSDAY, 5:30-8:30pm, GLA,
Queen's Walk, London SE1 2AA, tube: London Bridge. Open-ish. Check this
meeting is still running as it might be disbanded now that they've got:

-- the UK ESF Co-ordinating Committee: Every FRIDAY (?), 2pm (?), GLA,
Queen's Walk, London SE1 2AA, tube: London Bridge. Closed-ish but you can
try. Has possibly changed days its meeting. Good luck finding out about this
if you're not invited.

-- UK ESF Organising Committee (that SHOULD read UK Assembly!!): Sunday, 29
February, 12-4pm. GLA, Queen's Walk, London SE1 2AA, tube: London Bridge.
The purpose of the meeting will be to agree the proposal that to be
presented to the European preparatory meeting.

-- European Assembly: March 6, 10a-5p. March 7 10a-1p. GLA, Queen's Walk,
London SE1 2AA, tube: London Bridge.

Lucy Davis


Display the following 8 comments

  1. we all know whats going to happen — Sonic
  2. ohmygod! — llantwit
  3. Nice to see such a reasoned response. — Sonic
  4. Why these systematic attacks on the ESF? — smash the system
  5. erm.... — minute taker
  6. Hello Lindsey — Ian
  7. Poor Ian — Sonic
  8. consume the esf! — dis