It’s time to look east

The contrast could hardly have been more stark. Tony Blair began his 'big conversation' at the end of November with a 40-minute lecture accompanied by a team of Guardian journalists, a smattering of rolling TV news cameras and what appeared to be an audience consisting of Labour councillors and party members. Two weeks earlier 60,000 young Europeans had been engaged in their own big conversation at the European Social Forum (ESF) in Paris.

January 1, 2004
2 min read

The ‘international conversation’ was almost entirely ignored by the British press. The Guardian, to its credit, allowed me to cover it online. It also had a curtain-raiser report by its Parisian correspondent and a piece by star columnist and ESF speaker George Monbiot.

The Times and The Daily Mail also showed some interest – not in the ESF itself, but only because ‘hundreds of anti-capitalist hardliners’ were expected to travel from Paris to join the anti-Bush demonstrations.

Beyond that, a 150-word ‘news in brief’ item in The Times sneered: ‘France rolled out the red carpet yesterday for a state-sponsored jamboree of Europe’s anti-globalisation movement.’ And that was it.

Or not quite.

Retrospectively, in his Guardian Unlimited column, Europe minister Denis MacShane smeared the entire event (which he himself did not attend, naturally) as ‘anti-semitic’ because it made a ‘star speaker’ out of Geneva-based intellectual Tariq Ramadan.

The absence of the British press in Paris was echoed by another omission: the lack of Eastern European delegates. With the accession to the EU of the 10 mainly Eastern European new states next May, and the current inter-governmental arguments over the content of the proposed EU constitution, this was a serious blind spot.

The Eastern Europeans’ absence may be tacit confirmation of a right-wing centre of gravity in ‘New Europe’. This is perhaps due to the experience of Soviet occupation, but the decision to hold the next ESF in London, rather than in the East, looks more and more like a lost opportunity.

World Development Movement policy officer Clare Joy certainly thinks so. “With the EU one of the four big players in [world] trade negotiations, citizens within Europe need to be more proactive in putting pressure on Brussels, and to do that the powers of the new constitution need to be understood.”

There were seminars in Paris on the new EU constitution. One speaker demanded a show of hands on how many of the 700 or so delegates present had read the document. But only a miniscule smattering of arms went up, and she wisely pointed out that this alone was reason to vote against the constitution – no matter what it may contain.


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving

Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank

News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions

Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release

Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts

‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette

The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.

How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op

Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU

Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson

Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release

University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.

Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.

Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History

Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.

A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas

Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'

The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion

The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.

Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.

Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism

What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry

Airport expansion is a racist policy
Climate change is a colonial crisis, writes Jo Ram