Skip to content or view screen version

Anti-Racist Groups Accuse Lee Jasper of Playing 'Race Card' re ESF

repost | 19.10.2004 23:50 | European Social Forum | Anti-racism | Indymedia | Repression | London

Letter to BLINK:


Lee Jasper, Senior Race Advisor to Ken Livingstone (unwelcome anarchy at ESF, Guardian letters October 19th) engages in a crude attempt to portray what was effectively a protest against the lack of democracy and consensus by the GLA in the organisation of this years European Social Forum as a 'racist attack'. As members of some of the UK's leading anti-racist organisations dealing with the daily reality of racial violence for minority communities and its impact on our society we feel compelled to ask Lee Jasper to stop using accusations of racism to provide political cover for what was clearly political dissent aimed at his employer the GLA and the Mayor of London.

We witnessed the protest and that whilst there is never any excuse for any sort of 'scuffle' - the protest was supported by large sections of the audience, with banners highlighting the Labour Partys policies on racism and war and calling for its representative the Mayor not to be allowed to speak in the forum. What ever the rights or wrongs of such protests, Lee Jasper and the GLA must not play 'the race card' to silence these voices.

The ESF did however clearly highlight that our real fight is against Tony Blair, David Blunkett and New Labour and policies which have done so much to legitimise popular racism and Islamophobia and herald the re-emergence of the British National Party. Lets save the accusations of racism for where they really belong.


Piara Power, Director Kick It Out

Ashika Thanki, Secretary Newham Monitoring Project

Suresh Grover, Chair of National Civil Rights Movement

Rajiv Menon, NMP Educational Trust

10/19/2004 8:33:36 PM



Hide the following 4 comments

Open Letter to the European Anti-Social Forum

20.10.2004 14:53

Open Letter to the European Anti-Social Forum and in particular to the attention of the apparently severely misguided statements made in a letter by Lee Jasper, Secretary, National Assembly Against Racism; Ashok Viswanatha, Deputy coordinator, Operation Black Vote; Pav Akhtar, NUS black students officer in The Guardian Tuesday October 19 (Footnote: 1)

Mr. Jasper and friends have joined the bandwagon of claiming mainstream media presence through a condemnation of horizontally organising grass-roots groups. The media space created through such divide and conquer strategies is by no means new – we have in the past seen an otherwise great globalisation analyst like Susan George make such ludicrous appeasing statements to the powers that be (in connection with the police brutality in Genova during the G8, 2001, the responsibility of which she attributed to grass-roots groups, as well as similar comments in connection with the Strasbourg No Border Camp, 2002; obviously beyond the comprehension of anyone clued up to the actual unfolding of events in either occasions).

It is one thing to condemn an action with a clear and important message for political reasons, but when done in ignorance it is an act that requires reflection if we're to develop an intellectually honest approach to creating that other world, which is indeed possible. The disruption of the ESF was, of course, not a racist attack and Mr. Jasper's statements has accordingly been denounced by anti-racist grass-roots groups already (Footnote 2).

If Mr. Jasper and friends, who organise hierarchically from within the state power and who condone such organising, honestly want to denounce grass-roots, federated architectures of organisation , then so be it – but to do so under a banner reading “Another World is Possible” is in no way any different, in terms of honesty, then when George Bush II speaks of freedom and democracy. It is utterly non-sensical. There is nothing new or other-worldliness to a big event in a Victorian palace --where notabilities speak on podiums overlooking the masses who are subjected, thereby, to realise the emancipating lessons, where it cost more than most socially marginalised people can afford to enter-- if those circumstances are indicative of novelty then please help me out, because I see none. What I saw was accommodation in the dome where people were offered a cold concrete floor and the free marketeers, like vultures, were hanging out selling crap overpriced blankets to the people – I saw corporate food outlets in front of the palace selling all the usual products that are causing environmental destruction and produced with bonded labour -and so on and so on. It never ends. By contrast I saw free food and good mood at the autonomous space called Beyond ESF at Middlesex University, Tottenham campus, kindly provided by the Anarchist Teapot. Can you spot the difference?

What is novel, however, is that after 3 years of social fora--- (the first one of which took place in Porto Alegre and already was heavily criticised before it happened, the recent North Western Social Forum in the U.S., which collapsed due to similar appropriation of decision making structures and framing of the event by the authoritarian, self-righteous organisations that call themselves socialist or 'the left' or progressive NGOs (Footnote 3)) -----people finally took self-organised direct action against the scam. It was of course merely a symbolic action bringing to the attention of those present that the ESF is an Anti-Social Forum organised along the lines of the very system of oppression and repression known as representative liberal democracy (and funded, thus effectively controlled by the state itself in the guise of the Greater London Authority and Mr. War Party Livingstone). These lines, these forms of 'organisation' are but poor excuses and hardly much of a reform either: it is merely a generational changeover or a passing of authoritarian power from one group to another. Everybody knows, as Leonard Cohen sang, that the fight was fixed.

That is where they came from, those people. They came to present a very valid critique of the ways in which the ESF has been organised, controlled and policed – which is the primary reflection of ethical, moral, cultural and political sentiments behind the ESF. It is those that people have publicly denounced.

When the people were rejected a speaking position on the ESF stage in Trafalgar Square, they were acting in order to bring to the awareness of the passively listening crowd that in fact huge groups, who had been Sectioned 60 and otherwise harassed all the way from Tottenham, were being man-handled behind the stage, as the rap outfit following the speeches so nicely put it.

When the ESF combines it own voluntary security with phone calls to the Police in order to deny perfectly legitimate political activist groups a voice –-a voice that is needed in a world of war and unjust policing-- then we are no longer playing on the same team. You have left the good guys to sleep with the bad. We might all march in the name of peace – but we can't if some groups are not allowed their constitutional rights. “Excuse me Ms., we are going to take your mobile phone's SIM card and return it to you whenever we have copied it!” is a fairly light-handed violation, but we all know that push always come to shove. The recent seizure of servers is another aspect of the systematic repression that grass-roots groups face from an ever more aggressively policing state of war: We don't need, on top of that, to listen to random unfair accusations.

So, to Mr. Jasper and all the other groups involved with the ESF: wake up and understand that you are like dinosaurs when you denounce grass-roots and that it is incredibly opportunistic to claim, in the peoples' name, that another world is possible when all that you are doing is to replicate the organising of the very structures of suppression that self-organised peoples' groups, collectives and networks have been struggling against since time immemorial. And if you want to flash yourself in corporate media, then at least do your homework. Ignorance is no bliss in this case. Shame on you!




Lancaster IMC

Print the full letter

21.10.2004 12:36

This letter has obviously been edited because it does not contain any denuciation of the SWP.

Do you seriously expect us to believe this is the full text?

Davie DMX

Another perspective is possible

21.10.2004 17:16

Thursday October 21, 2004
The Guardian

I was the chair of the anti-fascist plenary at the European Social Forum. I would like to clarify the incident referred to in your leader (October 18). Shortly after the meeting began, around 100 people marched into the hall and stormed the stage. Despite the fact that I allowed the intruders to make a statement, I was hit in the face and pushed off the table. My wallet and mobile phone were snatched.
As a black activist, I have been involved in the movement for many years. I have only ever been attacked in this way by racists. It is outrageous that an anti-fascist meeting organised by black and Jewish people should be attacked for any reason.

The ESF was the biggest gathering of global justice activists ever seen in Britain. It should be remembered for that. But we need also to be clear that this kind of behaviour should never be repeated in our movement.

Weyman Bennett
Unite Against Fascism

John Brown


22.10.2004 13:03

So long as the dinosaur left continues its self-destructive tactics that have been tried and tested to death, the libertarian left will resist. No Justice, No Peace!