Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Your struggle is our struggle

Our first impressions of the World Social Forum (WSF) in Mumbai were the noise, bustle, huge crowds and vast diversity of cultures and nationalities.

March 1, 2004
4 min read

Feeling lost and needing to obtain a pass, we asked an organiser for advice. His terse reply was: “It’s on the net. Haven”t you looked?” He obviously thought every delegate had a computer, regardless of their financial position. After much discussion, we were allocated a police escort to take us where we needed to be. This was the first obvious similarity with our experiences in the miners” strike.

Then, two members of India’s Jute Workers Union lent us their passes so we could go inside and get legitimate ones. But realising we couldn”t get in at the nearest entrance, our new friends said they would block it until we were admitted. Shouting “open the gate!”, we were once again transported back to the miners” strike, when the cry would have been “close the gate!” And once again we were singing protest songs and facing a line of police. Would our former experiences of arrest in England be replicated here in Mumbai? Fortunately, common sense prevailed, the gate was opened and we could participate in the WSF after all.

Everywhere we went people were handing out leaflets. We were overwhelmed and amazed by the multiplicity of movements represented. Coming from a small village, the WSF site seemed like a huge city all on its own. Eventually, we did manage to find the area where our workshops would be held.

We opened our presentation with a rendering of our song “We are Women, We are Strong”. We then spoke about our experiences during the miners” strike and fielded questions from the workshop participants. The issue of call centres was raised, so we decided to attend a workshop on new technology. The best laid plans of mice and men! Mumbai taxi drivers normally weave and speed through the mass of heavy traffic. But on this occasion our driver didn”t want to know. We sat at the lights through three changes. We kept willing the driver on, but he just shook his head. Other drivers were sounding their horns, but he wouldn”t be budged. So much for the workshop. Then, as we rushed back through the crowds, we spotted our friend former Unison general secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe among the WSF delegates.

Our visit was certainly enhanced by meeting some Irish delegates, one of whom we had met before as part of an Irish miners” support group. We were also invited to a social evening by the activist-research network the Transnational Institute (TNI), at which we gave another rendition of our song. The Bengali delegates responded in kind. The TNI meeting allowed us to compare our struggles and experiences with others. The story was always the same: exploitation of the majority by the minority. Whatever the culture, the same words were expressed: “Your struggle is our struggle.”

We came away from the WSF refreshed and determined. As working-class women, we must look to ways of achieving fairness and equality for all. We are not academics and often find ourselves lost in academic debate, but we have a wealth of experience that can be shared and built on internationally. We need a bottom-up movement: a reversal of the trickle-down effect.

In specific policy terms, we need to fight privatisation. Unfortunately, we must fight a Labour government pursuing Tory policies. The Labour Party serves different masters now. It’s the puppet of Bush, taking us to war in Iraq, encouraging global conglomerates at the expense of the workers, denying working-class students a university education, handing out gongs to union leaders for encouraging their members to accept the policies of a hostile government. The list of New Labour’s crimes is endless, but the WSF has given us new hope, an education in itself, an experience we can pass on to others, a new awareness of the world as it exists today.

We cannot conclude this report without expressing our sadness at the poverty we witnessed in Mumbai. Sitting in the many workshops and listening to the debates about another world being possible, we were struck by the abundance of words and the scarcity of action. If the WSF is to become a meaningful forum then it must be clearer about how that global transformation can happen.Anne Scargill and Betty Cook are joint treasurers for Women Against Pit Closures, which is planning activities throughout the year to mark the 20th anniversary of the miners’ strike.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite