Over the Bridge to Malmo
Well, with the exploits of Copenhagen out of the way, its now time to cross the bridge, enter Sweden and go to the European Social Forum in Malmo, Sweden. Yes, bridge to Sweden. On a train service which, whilst pricey, did make me wonder why the British are just so lame. Just beyond the airport, we began our 10km journey over the water took over 5 minutes, and brought us to the edge of Malmo.
We arrived in Malmo just in time to reach Mollevangstorget, the square we were told to meet people in so we could be walked across to the social centre. We dropped by the E.On offices in town to take a quick peak, and then just around the corner to the centre which was a hive of activity, and where I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen in 3 and a bit years which was cool. We had a meeting to discuss a few technicalities and berate the lack of printed call-outs at this stage, and to gather up propaganda to distribute during the forum.
We walked hastily towards Folketspark, people’s park, to listen to some of the opening speeches, including Vandana Shiva, who spoke very well, if somewhat simplistically, unlike the rest, who just went to simplistic. After a while of leafletting the crowd, I headed with another UK delegate to get ourselves registered, which took a while longer than it needed to, and involved myself logging into email on the computer meant to be used by the volunteer doing the registering, so I could show her my confirmation email.
Heading back to the park, via a bite to eat, I got to see some of the music acts which were kind of predictably, er, bad. Not really another word for it. Anyhow, along came my host, we headed to his flat, and I got down to the critical task of sleeping.
Thursday was spent running around trying to find leaflets and ending up distributing Turbulence. I sat in on the end of the main part of the Eco-Feminist Gathering in the morning, which wasn’t in the slightest bit informative. In fact, it was a wasted opportunity from what I could see. And by this point it was clear that the translation system wasn’t going to be working properly for the most part.
After lunch I went to a session on Climate Change, Trade Unions and Government Action which was the classic tale of “activity merger” stupidity: everyone submits ideas, people try and figure ways to reduce 70 proposals within an issue to 10 sessions, and in the process, 5 speakers on one subject get forced to entertain someone on a different topic. Unfortunately, I happened to now know the person giving the odd-ball talk, Innes of the German Socialist Youth Movement. A German Climate Camper herself, I spent a short while talking her through some of the Trade Union issues at Climate Camp. She was also clearly the token female on the panel, and having spent the last weekend chatting in English, it was a bit odd to be donning headsets to hear her in English as she spoke in German, though I hardly blame her.
The other speakers seemed to be almost entirely from the transport sector, and berating the fact that cheap import labour is driving trucks around Europe instead of their membership driving trains. I did clarify this in the questions, asking if they were really saying “Euro jobs for Euro workers”, especially seeing as mass-migration is about the become a major constituent part of the Climate Crises. Jonathan Neale was amongst them, with whom I had a brief chat, and he actually asked if he could meet up with me for a chat later in the weekend. This came as a surprise, but its nice to be sought out instead of doing all the seeking, so I said yes, wondering what this was about.
The evening session I chose was not the session on Eastern Europe most people opted for, which was a pity for them because it turned out to be ghastly boring, the kind of speech which reminds you why left wing politics in Eastern Europe is often seen as utterly dead. Instead, my session of choice was entitled “Trade and Climate Change: Free Trade Impasse, Fair Trade Solutions” and was an interesting panel if only for the gender balance: three men talking about the EU, WTO and the trade impasse, and 3 women talking about practical fairtrade.
It was very informative, and a reminder that for many in power in the West, a solution to climate change must involve trade barriers being lifted and the shackling of the Global South to Western technologies, so that instead of creating their own resilience, the Global South is even more tied to the Global North for such things as patented wind-turbine parts. After three hours of intense discussion we broke up the meeting, and I headed back to the flat for some sleep.
Friday Morning I went to hear Tadgio Muller speak on the need to see Copenhagen in the perspective of the many previous summit mobilisations. In the afternoon I headed to a meeting for those on the Poznan-Copenhagen panel the next morning, then to the Climate Crash, or Klimakrock (I don’t think the translation quite works) to see how they do anti-car actions in Sweden these days. We marched down from Mollevangstorget to the now familiar junction outside E.On’s local offices, where we moved into position for an hours blockade of the junction.
A fellow UK Climate Campers read a statement on why E.On should be targetted, important in a country where E.On are usually seen as the good guys, supplying green energy, etc. It was impressive to see that the local Klimax group had more or less planned it around us being there, and definitely quite humbling. I then had to remind said Climate Camper that they were due to speak on a panel in 25 minutes, and so we ran to the venue which was luckily quite close by. With most people in the streets protesting, the meeting wasn’t exactly huge, and the translation gear in this venue was barely working at all, so the whole meeting was done in English.
We then headed to the street party, which went quite badly wrong, although most people maintained that it was barely a riot. By UK standards, it was a riot. I ended up a couple of blocks away drinking whisky with a friend’s hosts. They then walked me home via the area of mess. An altogether less positive example of a street party, but the police did basically seem to plan it that way, what with the messages of imported police coming from other cities.
On Saturday I rushed myself out of bed and ran down to where the meeting I was speaking in would take place. There was a coffee bar at the back of the venue, from which I got 2 coffees and several other odds and ends that would constitute not only breakfast but half of lunch. I fixed the sound system, then took up my place at the left hand end of the panel. I spoke last, only realising how big the crowd had grown as I began to speak, throwing myself off course somewhat, and meaning I spoke for 6 minutes and not 5. I hope I presented my thoughts on the matter well, which was rather difficult given the “biggest-demo-ever” approach of some of the panelists.
After some discussions outside the meeting, I headed off to the march (oh the wonders of a social forum demo) with Jonathan Neale having quite a detailed discussion looking at various issues around strategy that I wish I’d had a chance to take notes on. Given what another Climate Camper said about him (in short, that he was borring) I found the discussion intensely interesting. We parted company and I headed over to find some friends from Copenhagen, and to be greeted at one stage by Tadgio who gave me half his stack of Turbulence’s and told me to go hand them out. I saluted him by way of taking the piss and got to work.
For much of the 5.5km route of the march, I chatted with Innes, berated Britain and British police and British protesters, and enjoyed the music from the soundsystems. There was a quite awesome remix of “killing in the name of” at one point. When finally it finished I found food courtesy of the food van that was driving across from the social centre with pots of food. I love action kitchens, what more can I say on the subject.
I headed into town, ended up in a cafe where I was asked, much to my amazement, to contribute to the whats hot and whats not lists for the ESF2008, a great priveledge I feel (though maybe not as great as my melodramtic over-reaction might imply). We eventually headed down town for a “Party Without Borders” to which I almost did get in, because I slunk off for cash and then it packed out and I had to join a queue. Oh well. It was, however, if overly cheesy, a wonderful party, and a large number of familiar faces were there.
I made it home in part by virtue of a near collision between the bus I’d just missed and a car pulling across in front. After sleeping for 12hours, I began a long wonder to the station to get a train, allowing me to take in something of the Malmo I had not seen; the very picturesque place with its gardens and waterways. Travelling back I spent a night at Soli again, and a day mostly wandering around the city centre admiring some of the views (though not before calling in at Det Frei Gymnasium for Breakfast!) and then some trainspotting to kill the last hour before the bus departed. Soon, we were on our way back to England at the end of what was in fact a hugely memorable and exciting trip during which I experienced so much and did so much random networking, met people and exchanged ideas.
The next European Social Forum will be in Istanbul in late 2010. This could present a very interesting experience for activists; Turkey wants to be seen as part of Europe, but is anything but tolerant of protests. It knows full well that this must at least appear to change before it gains EU entry, but it doesn’t follow that their response to the event will be a pleasant one. Still, if the ESF has been accused of being too comfortable and non-happening, here is a chance to prove all that wrong.
Entry filed under: Politics.