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.

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright

Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones

‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression

Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death

‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum

The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes

Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference

Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki

Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going