Globalitzation of Protest:
Anti-WTO Actions Around the World
Revolutionary Worker #1034, December 12, 1999
While protesters disrupted the WTO meeting in Seattle, there were many other actions around the country and the world. As one TV newscast put it, the WTO and globalization had touched off a "globalization of protest." Following are reports of some of those protests.
At the U.S. embassy in Manila, several thousand people took part in a November 30 rally organized by BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance) and KMU (May First Movement). They denounced the "anti-people and imperialist agenda" of the WTO.
Teodoro Casiņo, BAYAN's secretary general, pointed out that when the Philippines government joined the WTO in 1994, it promised the creation of more than half a million new jobs in both agriculture and industry. But, Casiņo said, "Today we are witness to the betrayal of that promise. While the U.S. and other developed countries are forcing underdeveloped countries to open their economies, they are discreetly building measures that will protect their own agriculture and industries." BAYAN noted that while the government claims the official unemployment rate is about 12 percent, independent estimates put the figure at about 40 percent. BAYAN also noted that globalization policies have increased agricultural imports--making the Philippines, a largely agricultural country, dependent on imports of agricultural products.
Thousands of protesters opposed to capitalism and the WTO clashed with police November 30. Earlier in the day, there were demonstrations in the financial district and other parts of the city. Protesters carried signs reading "Capitalism Kills" and "WTO equals World Thieves Organization." In the evening, demonstrators gathered at one of the main commuter railway stations in the city. They linked the privatization of England's transport system to WTO policies and globalization. Many other issues were raised--including support for Mumia Abu-Jamal and opposition to the U.S.-British bombings and economic sanctions against Iraq. Riot police using tear gas moved on the protesters, who fought back with bottles and stones. The train station had to be shut down, and a police van was set on fire.
Anti-WTO actions took place all across India. Among those organizing protests were the All-India Peoples' Resistance Forum and the Joint Action Forum of Indian People Against the WTO. The following are some of the actions that took place.
In Bangalore, several thousand peasant-farmers and others protested the WTO meeting in Seattle and denounced Monsanto, a U.S.-based agribusiness corporation. Protesters said that increased import of agricultural products is causing great hardship in countries like India, where the majority of the people are small farmers and landless peasants. They issued a "Quit India" notice to Monsanto--warning the company to leave the country or face direct action protests.
In New Delhi, hundreds of people from Narwada Valley staged a sit-in against the WTO and the building of a dam in Maheshwar. They say that the dam--a joint project of Indian capitalists and German imperialists--will have a devastating impact on the lives of the people living in the area.
Also in New Delhi, hundreds of Adivasis (indigenous peoples) from the state of Madya Pradesh blockaded the World Bank building and covered it with posters, graffiti and cow dung. The protesters denounced the policies of the World Bank and WTO to "liberalize" trade in timber products--which has led to highly destructive development programs such as those involving forced evictions of Adivasis from their lands. An open letter from the protesters declared, "We fought against the British and we will fight against the new form of colonialism that you represent with all our might." The letter concluded, "For the World Bank and the WTO, our forests are a marketable commodity. But for us, the forests are a home, our source of livelihood, the dwelling of our gods, the burial grounds of our ancestors, the inspiration of our culture. We do not need you to save our forests. We will not let you sell our forests. So go back from our forests and our country."
West Coast Dock Workers
In solidarity with the protesters in Seattle, workers of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) shut down ports up and down the West Coast on November 30. Half of the U.S. trade carried on ships goes through the West Coast ports. Dock workers in about three dozen ports took part, including the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the largest in the U.S. Dock workers at Seattle, Tacoma, San Francisco and Oakland stayed off the job for eight hours. Stoppages at other ports lasted for three hours at midday. Some ILWU workers also went to Seattle to take part in the marches.
An ILWU spokesman said, "The union feels the free trade policies of the WTO destroy workers' rights, environmental protection and democracy."
On November 28, El Barzon--a group representing farmers, small businesses and others forced into bankruptcy and debt-- protested the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The protest included hundreds of people from northern Mexico riding their horses into the capital--repeating rebel leader Pancho Villa's famous action almost 85 years ago during the Mexican Revolution.
One of the results of NAFTA has been the opening up of Mexico to more imports of grain, fruit and other agricultural products from the U.S. A protester from Ciudad Juarez said that while boxes of apples grown in Chihuahua piled up unsold, apples from the U.S. were flooding the market in Mexico.
There were other anti-WTO actions around the U.S. and Canada--including in Boston; Austin, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; Winnipeg; Vancouver; and San Francisco Bay Area.
Around the world, there were protests in Hong Kong; Paris; Prague, Czech Republic; Berlin, Germany. And on December 3, as the WTO meeting in Seattle was coming to an end, electricity to the WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland was cut off for 45 minutes when protesters broke into a nearby power station. A Swiss news agency said the protesters issued a statement which "criticized the work of the trade organization, saying it had no consideration for people."
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