(OPE-L) European Social Forum

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sat Oct 16 2004 - 08:47:21 EDT

Related to our exchange on "Why not Eat Children?".
In solidarity, Jerry

Activists gather to get a piece of Che's spirit
By Jon Boone
Financial Times, October 15 2004

The two delegates at the Fraction Trotskyst stall were not entirely
happy with the European Social Forum, the large leftwing jamboree
that kicked of at Alexandra Palace in north London on Friday.

The forum's aim of providing a giant meeting space for everyone
opposed to war, racism and corporate power was just a little bit
trite for Lucas Pizzutti:

"They say another world is possible but this world should be a
socialist work and that necessitates a working class revolution."

Doctrinal difficulties aside, Mr Pizzutti and his colleague Guillermo
Ferraro had nothing but praise for the event, despite reports of
chaos and even fights on Thursday at some of the registration centres
organised  around the capital.

Mr Ferraro, in tune with many other visitors, agreed that the forum
provided a great opportunity to meet other like-minded people and
to hear the  views of the European left.

He had a lot of listening to do: in addition to scores of cultural  events,
there were more than 30 seminars and debates on offer on Friday,
including a session on the Muslim contribution to civilisation,
how best to keep  the arms trade out of universities and ecological
fiscal reform.

Although figures for the number of delegates on Friday were not
available the ESF, in common with its predecessors in Porto Allegre,
Florence  and Paris, is expected to attract large crowds. Organisers
said more than  10,000 people had registered at the Palace's vast
exhibition spaces with the  event well on the way to hosting an
estimated 20,000 by the end of the weekend.

Amid the variety of events in the three-day programme, where several
meetings were simultaneously competing for audiences, there was a real
excitement about some of the star attractions of the conference.

Many delegates were particularly enthusiastic about the presence of a
middle-aged woman called Aldeida, daughter of Che Guevara, the
legendary South American revolutionary.

Ms Guevara said she was fully aware of her box office appeal. "What's
really important is my surname. Being Che Guevara's daughter enables
me to  get people to hear what I have got say and it's possible for
me to speak  about the realities of Cuba that are not usually said in
newspapers. In  that sense I think I am being utilised in the best
sense of the word to the benefit of my country and my people," she said.

The spirit of the first forum in the Brazilian city of Porto Allegre  in
2000, intended as an alternative to the World Economic Forum in
Davos, has been successfully perpetuated in London with the presence
of Ms Guevara and her alternative economic prescriptions. She said South
America had  suffered from the neoliberal economic regimes foisted on
it by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

"It has been catastrophic. The clear example is in Argentina where a
country that became the tenth largest producer of meat now has children
dying  of
hunger in the north of the country, " Ms Guevara said.

The enthusiasm for all things Che was also apparent in the numerous T- shirt
and bandanna dealers who were doing a seemingly roaring trade in
revolutionary merchandise.

One stall was even boasting Cuban liqueur, saucy female figurines that
doubled as ashtrays and that essential revolutionary prop, Montecristo
cigars at 4 a pop.

Despite the ambivalent attitudes of many delegates to capitalism, the  ESF
event was something of a shoppers' paradise with areas given over to  stalls
selling goods to visitors on their break from seminars.

Many of the stands offering goods were quick to point out that sales
revenue s go to funding their organisations, such as the Aglianico
Antifascistawine on sale from the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista at
8 bottle. Donatella Russo, an activist from the Italian party, said the
home- made brew was produced in the best interests of the workers and,
judging by the hangovers of her compatriots, was good to drink.

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