Boarding the SSP flight to Florence

Frances Curran, international convener of the SSP, explains why the SSP is participating in the European Social Forum – what we can get from it and what we can contribute.

The idea of everybody and anybody who is involved in the “anti corporate” globalisation movement taking some time out to discuss with each other how best to fight the agenda of corporate globalisation is a relatively new idea – only two and a half years old.

The first World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil in January 2001 began the process of inviting the protesters from the streets of Seattle and many other cities worldwide, who are demonstrating under the slogan “Another World is Possible”, to take part in the debate of our times, – how to achieve that world.

The second meeting of the WSF at Porto Alegre in January 2002 attended by 60,000 people, wanted to increase the participation in the debate. It proposed organising continental based social forums. A regional Social Forum has already taken place in Argentina. and the Asian Social Forum will take place in Hyderabad in India.

The European Social Forum in Florence is part of this process.

Formally political parties are not allowed to become affiliated to the social forums, social movements are they main organisations involved. But members of left and socialist political parties world wide are involved in many of the social movements, especially in Brazil, where the social forum was born. The Brazilian workers party (PT) is very involved in anti privatisation campaigns and the landless peasants movement the MST. In Italy itself members of the Party of Communist Refoundation (RC) are very involved in many of the demonstrations and actions of the anti-globalisation movement.

Individual members of political parties are welcome to take part in the debates and discussions but are not represented on platforms.

Those travelling from Scotland to take part in the forum, will include, the Green Party, People and Planet, anti GM groups, Ploughshares 2000 – the anti nuclear weapons group, and members of Globalise Resistance.

The campaigns of the SSP, against privatisation of schools and hospitals, against GM crops, against nuclear weapons, and our policies to tax the rich are a central part of the debates of this movement.

There is a socialist wing of the anti globalisation movement which will be well in attendance at Florence. The SSP is already involved in developing an all European alliance called the Euro Anti Capitalist Left which includes a number of different parties and organisations similar to the SSP. Alongside the development of the anti globalisation movement we are involved in the equally important process of regroupment of left/socialist parties on a European basis. The role of these parties linking up with the developing social movements, in their own countries and European wide is very important.

These parties and organisations will all be there. We are trying to organise some informal social/meetings during the 5 days which will allow the members of these parties to meet together.

The formal forum seminars will allow for discussion from the floor, but as there are often 5 or 6 platform speakers, there may be very limited time for real discussion. The informal discussion in the cafes, bars and at social events will be as important as the formal meetings.

The SSP has jointly sponsored two workshops which are not part of the formal programme but are more like fringe meetings. We have jointly sponsored a workshop on the Blair/Berlusconi/Aznar Axis with the Socialist Alliance in England. We have also sponsored a workshop on “Globalisation and the right to National Self Determination” jointly with the Basque socialist group Zutik. We don’t yet have the venue details but we will circulate them and will need help to leaflet the main seminars (where thousands will take part) advertising them.

SSP members taking part in the forums should hope to participate in the many discussions taking place. We hope to link the discussions around; – neo liberal economic policies, anti war and anti racist campaigning, defence of civil rights and the other issues -to the need to change the entire system we live under, capitalism.

We will be taking along copies of “Imagine – A socialist vision for the 21st Century”, to sell and offer our vision of the other world we are fighting for.

For the first time the leadership of the European Trade Union Confederation are playing an active role in the movement. They will have speakers throughout the event. This is an important development, linking the organised working class throughout Europe to the social movements which have been created.

A seminar directly relevant to the role of the SSP will take place on Friday 8th November in the morning, discussing the relationship between political parties and social movements. A main participant will be Fausto Bertinotti the leader of the Party of Communist Refoundation (RC) in Italy. The SSP should be part of this debate, we think that it is a false idea to attempt to exclude political parties who oppose capitalist globalisation from participating in the forums and actions of the anti globalisation movement. It is certainly an issue which is unresolved and will continue to be discussed.

Above all members of the SSP should enjoy the experience of meeting up with 10,000 other people from Europe who are actively involved in fighting the effects of neo liberal globalisation. Enjoy the cultural and social events which have also been organised, forge links across Europe and help to strengthen the movement.

The next European Social Forum in 2003 is already under a discussion, if we really believe that the SSP can develop into a mass party fighting against capitalist globalisation and for socialism, who knows, Scotland may yet host a European Social Forum.