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(en) Britain, London, personal take in discussion of ESF by a comrade.

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 20 Oct 2004 13:57:09 +0200 (CEST)

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To what the previous contributor wrote, let me add my personal experience.
First of all, one general remark: compared to Florence and Paris, the
London SF was by far the more policed one. I was sort of shocked by
that. I mean, maybe it is a British cultural tradition, I don't know,
but I am not accustomed to have policemen walking around and shooting
with photo and video cameras anything that moved, without anybody being
bothered by that.
Now for the Trafalgar events. I spent most of Sunday evening outside the
Charing Cross police station, along with other friends and comrades,
trying to show moral and practical solidarity to the arrested, and more
particularly to Konstantinos Ioannou, a guy from the Antiauthoritarian
Movement of Thessaloniki. During all this time, not one person from the
organising committee was there or did anything to help these people as
far as I know. This shocked me too at the time. Now I know it shouldn't,
since, as I see, the SWP practically approves of these arrests as it
labels these people violent and dangerous anarchists.
Let's get something straight. Konstantinos, for one, is certainly no
violent "black blocker". I had met him Friday morning at the Tottenham
Campus autonomous space and he told me he was planning to do a workshop
on Gilles Deleuze -not to throw Molotov cocktails or anything like that.
He was arrested during the King's Cross events, on Sunday afternoon. The
accusation against him is "disorderly conduct": he allegedly spat on a
policeman. You can tell that this is one of the accusations the police
usually invent in order to justify otherwise unjustified arrests. Monday
morning he was brought before a judge who released him on bail, without
any fine or financial guarantee imposed on him.
While waiting at Charing Cross, about 11 o'clock, I met there Javier
Ruiz from the London Indymedia collective, who was also arrested but
then released later in the evening, and had a short talk with him. He
was absolutely positive that a person from the organisers had asked the
cops to arrest him at Trafalgar square and told us that he was going to
make a detailed written account on all that and publish it. Maybe he
already did, I don't know.
Let me add something: according to Alex Callinicos, Javier and other
people tried to "violently interrupt the speeches" at the Trafalgar
square after the end of the march. This may be so, or not; but before
that, more importantly, may I ask: why were there any speeches at all in
the first place? If I am not mistaken, the decision of the ESF was not
to have any speeches after the march, just a concert.

I don't know when I first began to feel the first faint buzz of
conversion -
perhaps it was listening to Alex Callinicos in the Great Hall on Saturday
afternoon damning the imperialist war-mongers, spectacles slipping down his
nose, stumbling over his words in excitement and clad (rather suitably, I
thought at the time) in a black shirt.

Or maybe it was hearing the high-octane pitch of Faustino Bertinotti,
calling for a Europe of peace and justice, a Europe of equals in which war
would be a thing of the past, a Europe that wasn't for sale.

Either way, the road to Damascus began to open for me.

I'd been finding the ant-war rally a sad, depressing and angry experience;
here was Alex proposing the RESPECT coalition and George Galloway in
particular as a new, exciting and ethical political party of the left.
Not a
dozen meters away in the same hall, there were groups of women from Iraq
campaigning for the victims of torture and the disappeared of Saddam.
George Galloway the man we saw in 'that' video, cringing and fawning in
front of Saddam, praising his bravery and courage, even whilst Iraqis were
being tortured and disappeared? Wasn't it George Galloway who'd received
money from that same Saddam through various Iraqi 'charities'? How could he
still be posing as the champion of the Iraqi people?

Alex himself swore blind that the Socialist Workers Party was a model of
grass-roots democracy - I wondered, is this the same SWP that colluded with
the SA and GLA to exclude the other UK groups in Paris when bidding for
London? The same SWP which declared through Jonathan Neale that local
forums weren't 'representative', and sought to exclude and marginalize the
ones that weren't set up by the SWP? The SWP that had already secured
agreement on the Alexandra Palace as a venue for the ESF UK even before
there was an ESF UK? The list went on.. How could this be?

Pondering this depressing reality however didn't calm the excitement I felt
rising inside me, speech after speech: "democracy. peace.. Justice..
Equality", on and on in my brain in some mad, hypnotic rhythm.

And then I got it.

Just as the retired Israeli supreme court judge Naim Cohen said that a jew
was anyone who said they were, it was a question of will and perception
- in
the same way that the national socialist german workers party of the 1930s
(the nazis) were socialist because they said they were, so the socialist
workers party is a workers party because they say they are, Alex Callinicos
is a democrat because he says he is, and Redmond O'Neill is a socialist
though he gets paid over £110,000 a year as a consultant to Ken
They are what they claim to be, because identity comes through will.

By the time Sunday came I could watch the blue-jacketed Alexandra Palace
security and the police confronting my erstwhile colleagues of the truly
radical left with equanimity, even a smile. What did it matter if the
Marxist-Leninism espoused by Alex is really about as radical as tucking
shirt into your underpants, or that the Socialist Worker paper is as rigid
and doctrinaire in its writings as the Daily Telegraph? What did it matter
if the bidding and organizing process of ESF UK had been run roughly along
the same lines as the recent referendum run by Lukashenko in Belarus?

So I say along with Lenin that the vanguard of the revolution is quite
entitled to use the violence of the state to advance the dictatorship of
proletariat! Clearly, property can't be private if it's at the service of
the Revolution, and so the ESF Trading Regulations are a legitimate arm of
the insurrectionary proletariat...

As the sun came up clear and bright on my Pauline conversion, I found
standing on the steps of the Alexandra Palace along with my comrades of the
Socialist Workers Party shouting: "Lay on with those truncheons, you
boys in
blue! Clear this anarchist rabble out of the path of the leaders! I'm with
the Revolution, and we've got an empire to build!"

Sorry, but this statement made by mr. Callinicos is not going to be very
helpfull, since it only ads more false information to the description of
what has happened in London in the past weekend.

And above all it makes some very unjust accusations that will only
highten the tensions between different currents.

First of all there was no such thing as a 'black block'. There were
angry demonstrators, after friends of them had been unjustly arrested
without any reason at all. All they wanted was that this news would be
told on the stage, but nobody was given any access to the stage, that
was being protected by SWP/stop the war-guards. A scuffle broke out,
people became more angry, police moved in, started to arrest more people
(some reports say; on advice of SWP, but others state police operated on
their own initiative).

Nobody wanted to "destroy" any event. There was no 'black block', the
people involved where form very diverse background.

The same goes for the description of the action on saturday evening,
when a huge crowd entered the FSE without registering and paying. They
interrupted the session going on indeed, but not because it was about
anti-fascism (as Callinicos tries to make believe) but because Ken
Livingstone was the speaker at the event, as you know mayor of London
and prominent figure of the Labour Party. Again there was some shoving
and pushing, from both sides it has to be added. Some reports state that
the main squirmish started from the side of the ESF-organisers who
wanted to prevent a representant of Bables to speak out through the
microphone. Also good to know is that after 30 minutes the session went
on as planned (!).

As somebody remarks in indymedia-UK, previously there had been a session
that was disrupted in it's totality by unrelated 'protesters' (because
they didn't like what one of the speekers wanted to tell them about
Iraq, see
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1330098,00.html) but this
does not seem to bother mr. Callinicos at all...!

If you want to label the protesters anything, you might call them
anarchists, not 'black block' although i'm sure many people will not
feel represented by that label. Many of them participated in (parts) of
the ESF as well as in alternative parallel programs.

For a clearer view of all the events people might want to use the UK
Indymedia website (as long as the FBI allows it to be operational):
http://www.indymedia.org.uk You'll have to surf a bit through different
postings, as different people are writing their views.

In fact the message mr. Callinicos has posted is a good example of why
so many tension has risen before and during the ESF. Many activists do
not trust the notorious avantgardist and 'entrist' strategy of an
organisation like the SWP and their satellites in other countries. I
don't always agree with all the criticism of the 'anarchists', which is
often too easy and can be quite sectarian too. But the behaviour of a
group like the SWP is of much more threat to the forum-network (it's
function and content) than that of their critics. Like it or not, if you
want the Forums to keep existing, you should take that criticism in

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