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Florence summit fails

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In November 2002, the first European Social Forum in Florence issued the call for worldwide anti-war demonstrations on February 15, 2003. To mark its tenth anniversary, 1,500 activists gathered there for an event titled "Firenze 10+10".

The title was meant to indicate the meeting would draw up a balance sheet of the struggles of the last ten years and plan for those of the decade ahead. Instead, it repeated the ESF’s failures of the past decade, confirming that its organisers had, as the saying goes, “learned nothing and forgotten nothing”.

Billed as an opportunity to coordinate action against austerity across Europe, instead we were presented with a bland call for “a European permanent mobilisation to support the fights to overcome the crisis and build a future for everyone in Europe and in the world”, followed by a calendar of events that had already been planned by other organisations.

These start with the general strikes and ETUC day of action on 14 November and proceed, via a demonstration outside the European Summit in Brussels in March, to an “Altersummit” in Athens in early June.

Although the forum had been organised around five extended workshops, the final statement contained none of the proposals arising from those discussions. Initially, even a call for mobilisations on 8 March, International Women's Day, was not included.

The failure of Firenze 10+10 to attract any involvement from the mass movements that have shaken Europe in the last year is proof that history has passed the ESF by. For ten years, the leading forces in it have refused to let it develop into an organisation that could initiate struggles. Instead, they insisted it remain a “space” from which political organisations were excluded, and at which no decisions could be taken. Its first success, 15 February 2003, was its last.

As the strikes on 14 November show, the potential for pan-European working class organisation and action certainly exists; even the bureaucratic trade unions have recognised that. The task now is to fight within the unions and the mass movement for a democratically controlled coordinating centre that will lead an effective pan-European fightback.

In this struggle, a truly European one-day general strike would be a declaration of solidarity with all those under attack and encourage the movement in each country to mobilise all-out action to bring down the austerity governments and replace the European Union with the Socialist United States of Europe.