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(en) Britain, London, MEDIA, 'Corporate' ESF sparks rival conference

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 13 Oct 2004 00:57:49 +0200 (CEST)

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A rival counter-conference to this week's European Social Forum in London is
being planned to protest at the "hijacking" of the anti-war, global justice
event by mainstream organisations and individuals such as the trade unions
and the mayor of London.
This week's ESF - the third annual meeting of leftwing and environmental
activists from across Europe - is expected to attract around 20,000 people
from across Europe for three days of debate. It will culminate in a
demonstration on Sunday against the US President, George Bush, and the war
in Iraq.

But internal splits, between grassroots activists on one side and key
players and major sponsors on the other, have now broken into the open, with
a hardcore of anarchists and direct action supporters organising a more
freeform, rival conference.

While delegates, who pay a L30 registration fee, will spend Thursday and
Friday at the main conference venues of Alexandra Palace and Bloomsbury to
debate war, racism and corporate power, the fringe festival - dubbed "Beyond
ESF" - will celebrate "self-organised cultures of resistance".

It's organisers, backed by the small London anarchists' outfit the Wombles,
will meet away from the main conference site, at Middlesex University in

Organisers say the purpose of the alternative conference is because the ESF
has been "hijacked by authoritarian organisations such as the SWP [Socialist
Workers party] and racist, war-crazy corporate whores Neo Labour [who have]
got in on the act through Ken Livingstone and the GLA".

The Wombles state: "Beyond ESF is radically different from the official ESF.
No government sponsorship (GLA and mayor of London) and no political
parties. There will be no 'leading activists', 'big-name speakers' or
entrance fee."

Workshops on ad-busting, shoplifting global brands, defence of the Roma
people, opposition to the EU constitution and the history of squatting will
be held, culminating in a day of discussion on resisting the forthcoming
Gleneagles meeting of the G8 under UK stewardship.

The four main themes are billed as "Autonomy & Struggle", "No Borders &
Migration", "Casualisation", and "Social Control & Repression". In addition
there will be food, cinema and live musical entertainment each evening.

Splits had already been apparent in the year-long build up to the
conference. Ken Livingstone's team won the right to host the conference at
last year's ESF in Paris, but since then rows have developed behind the
scenes between the so-called "horizontals", or non-affiliated groups, and
the "verticals", such as the trade unions, the GLA and the Socialist Workers

The activists' news site Indymedia will be covering both the official ESF
and the counter-conference. They will be broadcasting an hour-long daily
show rounding up the ESF on Resonance 104.4 FM. Some 20,000 copies of an
Autonomous Spaces free newspaper have also been published to persuade
delegates to the official conference to attend some of the rival events.

On the cultural side, the Rampart squatted art and social space in
Whitechapel will be organising film shows, music and workshops, food,
internet access, audio & video editing and prop & banner making as well as
hosting the "Mobile Carnival Forum" - a double-decker bus making a daily
spontaneous trip between venues, and the situationist art-guerrillas the
"Lab of Insurrectionary Imagination" will also work out of the squat.

The Guardian is a media partner of the ESF.

Official ESF website: www.fse-esf.org/en/

Beyond ESF agenda: wombles.org.uk/news/article_2004_10_8_5355.php

Laboratory of Insurrection: www.labofii.net/home/

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