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London ESF: Youth assembly report

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At this year’s European Social Forum on the Saturday afternoon of the three day event 200 young activists came together for 2 hours of debate and discussion on the way forward for the movement against war, racism and neo-liberalism.

The Assembly cut across the often bureaucratic and stage managed plenaries and seminars that filled much of the programme of the third European Social Forum by providing a real forum for a democratic debate and discussion. This was particularly important for young people who had been denied a self organised space within the walls of Alexander Palace and also translation facilities for the Youth Assembly after it was finally agreed to by the ESF organisers. Many activists sighted this as an example of Youth Oppression expressing itself within the movement itself reflecting the political oppression and exploitation young workers suffer under capitalism.

REVOLUTION, the Socialist Youth Organisation, who had worked with a number of other organisations to facilitate the Assembly tabled a resolution to the Assembly. For a minority activists the statement, which called for a mass direct action against the social cuts, the summits of the G8 and EU and the on going occupation of Iraq plus taking steps towards a new revolutionary youth international was too radical. Activists from ECOSY, the social democratic youth group with links to the British Labour Party and German SPD, argued against the resolution preferring instead an agreement to work together on youth representation within the ESF process. They also argued against voting and amending the resolution sighting the need for consensus under the Porto Alegre principles.

The latter point prompted a long and interesting debate with the majority of activists arguing that voting was necessary where consensus could not be reached to take the movement forward otherwise a minority of activists would be able to block the majority taking action under the banner of the Youth Assembly. In the end it was agreed to vote and a number of amendments were brought to the resolution.

One called for the building of local social forums while the Basque Youth Group SEGI put an amendment calling for international solidarity with the struggles of oppressed nations fighting for liberation. An amendment from the Scottish Socialist Youth sought to remove the explicit reference to solidarity with the Iraqi anti-occupation struggle again prompting a lively but friendly discussion. A number of other amendments were brought forward and discussed.

The holding of the Youth Assembly that passed a bold and radical resolution is an important step forward for the movement as a whole and particularly for those groups and individuals interested in organising young people autonomously across borders. We must not be complacent though. The task is now on to build and organise successful Youth Assemblies at future regional, national and local forums plus as a fringe to the mass mobilisations against the G8 and EU next year.

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