National Sections of the L5I:

L5I Statement to the EPA in Istanbul

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League for the Fifth International 20-11-08,

Dear comrades of the European Social Forum,

The magnificent mobilisations of the school and university students in Italy  dubbed the Abnormal Wave - and the general strikes initiated by Cobas, Cub and Sdl, plus the huge strike of the Cgil and other big federations in October, are an example to the whole of Europe.

It is an example of the militant mass action that the German school students and similar movements in Spain and Greece show can and must be unleashed in the context of a deepening economic and social crisis. The action called by the French airline pilots, train drivers, teachers, students and postal workers this week also have the potential to become a mass movement such as we have seen several times in the past few years.

The slogan on the streets of Italy -We will not pay for their Crisis - should be taken up and such mass actions must be reproduced across Europe.

Our rulers in the EU must learn the hard way that the workers and youth of Europe will not tolerate the incapacity of their system - not simply neoliberalism but capitalism itself - to provide decently paid and secure jobs, social housing, retirement pensions, education and healthcare as well as democratic and trade union rights. If they cannot learn that lesson then they must be transported to the garbage dump of history.

We reject the expenditure of trillions of working class taxpayers' money to bail out the bankers - coming on top of the trillions wasted on the reactionary "war on terrorism". We should demand that all banks and private corporations that sack their workers, close down plants or off-shore their operations should be taken into state ownership under workers' control and with no compensation for their former owners. When workplaces are closed and industries are decimated, we should follow the example of workers in the crises of the 1970s and 80s and occupy them. The unemployed must be helped by the unions to remain visible, militant and self-organised.

The more militant unions must not passively await the "action" of the conservative and bureaucratic ETUC in the face of these immediate threats. These dinosaurs will simply plead for help from the Browns, Sarkozys and Merkels who they still see as their negotiation partners. That is why the big British unions have just sold out their threatened "hot autumn" of wages struggles, in conditions where the government is imposing two percent increases when inflation, even on official figures, is between 4 and 5 per cent. In Germany too IG Metal has agreed a deal below the rate of inflation that will cut its members' wages. In The ESF, where the more radical unions participate, should not tail behind the ETUC but give a lead itself.

The price of allowing the crisis to rip through our jobs and services will be to encourage the radicals of the right, the racists and fascist forces that are growing. From Naples in May to Litvinov in the Cezch Republic earlier this month, a wave of vicious pogroms against Roma has taken place. In Hungary the rise of a reactionary antionalist and fascist right, using anti-Roma racism, is a warning of what will happen as the illusions of capitalist prosperity evaporate, if the left do not put forward a militant alternative.

The ESF process needs to be radically reoriented away from drawing up and discussing limited programmes for reformist governments to implement in circumstances where there are not even any parties to carry them out. Obviously, some people do place their hopes in "left parties" - Rifondazione yesterday, the Linkspartei today - but recent events show that they are easily lured into coalitions with Social Democrats and former Christian Democrats who will do the bidding of the EU rulers. The fate of Rifondazione shows they will only discredit themselves with their core supporters and suffer complete shipwreck.

The advocates of this hopeless strategy comforted themselves that it was a very practical and reasonable course of action. In fact the most reasonable course - faced with the onset of a major crisis that could well usher in a decade of stagnation and depression - is a programme of resistance, a programme of action.

This needs to be discussed urgently, beginning in Istanbul and then at all the meetings of the EPA. We should start with the actions already being taken by the unions and the youth and decide how to replicate them  and not just in the EU but across the whole of Europe.

It is high time that the European Social Forum played an active role in coordinating and inspiring solidarity with the various national movements that are already underway. It should take the lead in encouraging a European "Abnormal Wave" from the workplaces and places of education of the entire continent. To this end we suggest that the ESF should call on unions, parties, youth organisations to send delegations to the major mobilisation planned in Italy on 12 December and to the strikes and demonstrations in France in the next period - if the union leaders there stick to their promises.

As we have said many times, the gathering of people from the more radical unions, parties, campaigns of Europe at the EPAs is a sheer waste of resources if all they do is talk about the balance sheets of previous Social Forums or wrangle over the "themes" for the next one. The ESF is plainly stagnating because it indulges in endless discussion about reformist utopias and its own methodology rather than issuing calls to action on the immediate issues of the day. Istanbul 2010 and the process of EPAs could be different. They could return to the spirit of Florence 2002. Indeed, if they do not, then the ESF will die - and it will deserve to die.

Yours in solidarity

Dave Stockton, for the League for the Fifth International