By Mick Duncan
In between marching, trying out the cheapest wine on sale and getting lost, No Sweat participated in two sessions at the European Social Forum (12-15 November).
The first was organised by the Clean Clothes Campaign on codes of conduct and corporate responsibility. The seminar was in three parts, with academics, campaigners and trade unionists on the panel. No Sweat tried to appeal to the newly enlightened audience to get active in taking on sweatshop exploitation and to support the Tarrant workers, still sacked and blacklisted in Mexico.
On the Friday evening No Sweat hosted a workshop to discuss "Themes and Strategies for Anti-Capitalism". The audience joined No Sweat, John from Notes from Nowhere - the collective that put together We Are Everywhere - and Colin from the Simon Jones Campaign to discuss new ways of organising, old ways of organising, direct action, trade unionism, revolution and climbing naked up building site cranes! The session stood out as a rare opportunity for audience members to participate. Most of the other sessions were highly dominated by top-table experts.
For me, it was disappointing that there was such little open space for people and organisations to meet, plan and discuss, and also that the GLAD (fluffy grassroots event) was separate from the ESF. We will only create the sort of united movement we need to really oppose capitalism if there is much more discussion of both our commonalities and our differences, and a comradely approach to common struggle. An apparent attempt to hide differences under the carpet or exaggerate them by keeping events separate needs to be resisted.
It was almost a surprise to see so many people on the march on Saturday afternoon. Because the Forum was held at a number of different venues it hadn't felt like the huge gathering it was. The French unions and revolutionary groups all have floats, music and banners. Their marches make a lively, loud, colourful occasion. The perfect end for the Forum.