Say goodbye to the circus

In the Blanket, John O’Farrell has a thoughtful report on the “gathering of trots, anarchists, trade unionists, pacifists, ecologists, nationalists and interest groups” at this year’s European Social Forum in London.A few paragraphs worth highlighting –

“Adams kept his audience happy by talking in the common language of “another world is possible”, of the “”importance of practical as well as symbolic acts of international solidarity.” Third World debt should be cancelled, the environment should be protected, private corporations should be kept out from the public sector, diversity should be respected and equality defended, the US/UK troops should be pulled out of Iraq now, and the resistance should be backed without question or sentiment. George Galloway made the last point as simply as possible: “It’s not our job to analyse the resistance – it’s our job to defeat imperialism. Don’t be seduced into some third camp – that camp is part of the first camp, the imperialism of Bush and Blair.” The foes of the movement, the imperialists, are losing the war at home as well as the streets of Fallujah, he assured his cheering followers, being crushed between “the hammer of the Iraqi resistance and the anvil of the international solidarity movement.”

Richard Boyd Barrett asserted his unequivical support. “People have the right to take up arms and resist”, he told the same audience. Accusing those who question the suicide bombing of Iraqi children queueing for sweets as fostering “anti-Islamic racism”, Boyd Barrett asserted that “people have the right to resist in what ever manner they choose”, bringing in the language of multiculturalism to real life and death. Despite being specific about the forces behind the new imperialism – the Washington neoconservatives and the Project for a New American Centiry – all speakers were coy about the specifics of the ‘resistance’. There was no specific mention of the Shi’ite cleric Al-Sadr and his Madhi Army, nor Zaquari and his fellow kidnappers and decapitators, not even Al-Queda, with their own take on the rights of women and the existence of gays.

Similarly, the great bugbear ‘neo-liberalism’ was oft decried but never defined. Sessions were held on all the right humanitarian causes (Palestine, Chechnya, Nepal, Colombia, Northern Ireland), but Sudan and the ongoing atrocities in Darfur did not merit a single mention. Perhaps the idea of an Islamist government raping and murdering an Islamic ethnic minority did not fit the picture.”

But he is also fair in his assessment of the motivations behind the 20,000 other participants attending the Forum –

“The other side of the coin is the genuine sense of altruism that emanated from the 20,000 participants, the desire to contribute to politics in an age when no party can get people like these to join them or even vote, the willingness to fight for a freer and fairer world, the complete absence of ethnic or racial superiority, the sense of real internationalism, the hunger for knowledge about how the world works and how it can be changed.”