By Vicki Morris
Here we are, tens of thousands of us, in Paris. We had a more or less long journey to get here, and from some regions we had a dangerous journey. Some of us had trouble getting permission to enter Fortress Europe; life will be harder for some of us when we get back home because we came here.
We paid good money to get in-those who paid three euros will count the cost the most. To get the most from the event, we will study the agendas and run around Paris and probably we will miss sleep. We will hear people we agree with and some that will make us very angry and some we simply don't understand. Then we will go away, more or less tired.
Our French hosts will be exhausted when we all go home, and perhaps-hopefully not, but perhaps-they will be out of pocket.
And all because another world is possible! Because it is. We wouldn't be here if we didn't think so.
Can the ESF, can what we are doing here, bring that other world into being?
When the World Social Forum was first planned as a riposte to the capitalists' World Economic Forum, perhaps nobody imagined that so many people would pin their hopes on this movement and that it would globalise almost as rapidly as any capitalist multinational globalises!
But a lot is now expected of the social forum movement.
Paris this week is a place where all man-made problems of the world, problems caused by the "system", can be aired, and solutions discussed. In the first place, we will discuss what "system" is responsible for our problems! The economic system that rules the world is capitalism. Are we here to discuss how to bring down capitalism? Or only how to tackle neoliberalism, how to reform capitalism? In the main article on this page we discuss how reform is impossible if all that "reform" means is to turn back the clock to a less aggressive, less "global" capitalism. The tendency towards globalisation is in the DNA of capitalism!
The AWL is one of the groups that are here to discuss how to bring down capitalism, and to persuade those that don't agree with us that it is necessary to bring down capitalism.
There are other "systems" being discussed here this week: patriarchy, racism, heterosexism. On another level, there are the "systems" that we have devised within our own movements to organise our activities, but that sometimes stop us being as effective as we might be. They too will be discussed.
This movement of movements that will meet at the ESF-though the ESF does not define its boundaries-is rich in experiences and answers-some right, some half-right and some plain wrong-to the problems that the systems confront us with. This is a place for us to discuss the different answers, to see how they can enrich each other; and it is a place for us to disagree with each other if we need to.
Take one problem: McDonald's. (You know we must be careful what we say here!) There are many reasons to confront McDonald's and many ways to do it. The AWL's preferred method is to paralyse the beast from the inside, organising the workforce to strike for decent wages, against bad working conditions, for the right to effective trade unionism, as the strikers at Strasbourg-Saint-Denis are doing even now. Or you can bulldoze the construction of a new restaurant with farm machinery in the name of decent nutrition and the small producer, as José Bové has done; this has something to recommend it. Or you can smash up a restaurant during a demonstration-apart from venting and demonstrating your anger, what is the purpose in this?
It is good for us to find ways to work together where we can-the purpose of the social movements assembly on Sunday 16 November-but it is just as important to be clear about what we don't agree on. Only this way can the movement of movements learn and go forward.
This is what the ESF is for. In this, it is a vital tool in our struggle to bring about another world.
Political and proud!
Why is the AWL even in Paris? The WSF Charter prohibits the participation of political parties as such in its processes. We think this is a mistake and dishonest.
It is a mistake because if the ban were honestly applied it would exclude large numbers of people who contribute-we think, crucially-to the struggles outlined in the Charter.
It is dishonest because everyone knows that political parties are involved prominently in the ESF process, although their members wear non-party hats. How can another world even begin to be possible when we all connive at such a self-deceit? It's a grand farce!
The AWL supports more structure for the ESF: let us see who is pulling the strings, let them stand for election, let us hold them to account; let us have influence for all, not just for groups with large memberships or large bank accounts.
We will support any such proposals at the social movements assembly on Sunday 16 November.