Revolutionary Worker #1098, April 15, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
Quebec, April 19-22, is promising to be another major flashpoint in the spirit of Seattle, Washington, DC, and Prague. Momentum is building toward a showdown between anti-globalization protesters and the Summit of the Americas-- where the heads of 34 countries in North, South, and Central America, and the Caribbean will be discussing the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas Agreement).
On one side the U.S. and Canadian imperialists are determined to silence and suppress opposition to their plans to expand their plunder of poor nations of the Western Hemisphere. They want FTAA in place so capital is more free to flow to seek the greatest profit, more free to exploit labor without the hindrance of health and safety laws, and more free to expand into areas it hasn't been allowed in --like public services. With FTAA, the Western Hemisphere will be an even more integrated global market serving the needs of U.S. capital. And FTAA will increase the impoverishment and environmental destruction of the people and lands of the oppressed nations of South and Central America.
Once again, the lords of capital have assembled a massive machinery of repression. Once again, they stand in complete fear that they will lose control and be dealt an embarrassing defeat--as they were when tens of thousands of protesters disrupted the WTO's annual meeting in Seattle.
One activist posting to the Center for Media Alternatives Quebec (CMAQ) website noted, "Not since the War Measures Act, 30 years ago (when the army occupied the city of Montreal after two public officials were kidnapped by the FLQ-Quebec Liberation Front), has there been a greater display of the armed might of the state in Canada than there will be in Quebec City," and not since then "has there been a greater need for people of conscience to speak out against the repression of dissent."
FTAA Protest Plans
Many activists have been building opposition to the FTAA, and preparing for the Quebec Summit for well over a year. Organizing activity has gone on all over Canada and the east coast in the U.S. The protests in Quebec are building on other actions against globalization that have taken place in Canada, including against meetings of the OAS in Toronto in 1999 and Windsor, Ontario last year.
A wide range of different forces are planning activities for Quebec. A large "People's Summit of the Americas" will be held April 17-21. The summit is being headed by the RQIC (Reseau Quebecois sur L'integration Continentale-Quebec Continental Integration Network) and includes the major Canadian labor unions. It will bring together activists, scholars, representatives of labor and peasant groups, and non-governmental organizations (NGO's) from all over the Western Hemisphere. There will be forums and plenary sessions on education, agriculture, human rights, the environment, and labor. The People's Summit is also involved with the organization of a large permitted demonstration for April 21.
Another broad coalition organizing for protests is called Occupation Spring Quebec 2001 or OQP2001. OQP2001 includes about 30 different groups. It's also part of a broad grouping called The Convergence Table (TAB), which includes unions, student organizations, NGO's, religious groups, etc. TAB supports plans for direct action against the Quebec summit. TAB was launched by a group called SalAMI that has called for non-violent direct action at the summit as well as a people's teach-in. A call for a women's action has also gone out all over the world.
Some of the most active and radical opponents of the summit are the Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC) and its sister group CASA-Summit of the Americas Welcoming Committee. These two groups have called for a "Carnival Against Capitalism" from April 17-22. CLAC is planning on opening a convergence center to help organize and meet the needs of protesters. Plans for the carnival include outreach to the population of Quebec city, a torchlight march to "welcome" the opening of the summit, a day of action against the summit that allows for "a diversity of tactics," and spokescouncil organizing meetings. CLAC describes itself as anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist. Its basis of unity statement says, "We fundamentally reject a social and economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and exchange. We reject a system driven by an exploitative logic that sees human beings as human capital, ecosystems as natural resources, and culture as simply a commodity. We reject the idea that the world is only valuable in terms of profit, competition and efficiency."
CLAC has especially been singled out by the authorities for its radical opposition. Because they refuse to disavow in principle the right of the masses to fight back and resist, they have been targeted for "advocating violence." In the face of this, it's become especially important for activists to unite and oppose these "distancing" tactics, as well as other efforts by authorities to isolate and set up radical forces for attack.
A number of defiant and creative border actions are planned as part of opposition to the FTAA. Ya Basta, a New York City collective, has called for a People's Caravan to mobilize from all points in the Americas, to cross the Canadian border at Cornwall, New York. The crossing is being coordinated with a group from the Mohawk Indian tribe, who have people living on both sides of the border and have historically resisted oppression by both the U.S. and Canadian governments. A group of traditional Mohawks has reportedly pledged to open the bridge at Cornwall across the border.
The Ya Basta call states, "As world capitalism relentlessly promotes 'investment' and the 'free market' to the detriment of the freedom of people, indeed exploiting and destroying everything in its path, we will travel to Quebec City as citizens of the world, defying the archaic notions of nation-states and borders, and asserting the right of free movement of people across all borders."
On the U.S.-Mexico border at San Diego/Tijuana, a mass mobilization of people from both sides of the border will gather to demand "Liberate the Border, No More Blockades!" The organizers of this action are demanding an end to militarization of the border, NAFTA sweatshops, the FTAA and WTO, and respect for the rights of indigenous people. A protest in Seattle plans to march to the INS building to oppose the FTAA and "highlight issues of immigration and amnesty."
Organizers in Kingston, Ontario have announced plans for an "anti-FTAA border caravan" to Quebec City. Activists are planning on clogging highway 401, a main artery for Canada-U.S. trade, and proceed to the border to hook up with people coming across from New York state. They say if people aren't allowed to cross, "We will close down the border. If they can't pass, nothing will." From there the caravan plans to go to the crossing point at Cornwall and shut down the locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway if people aren't allowed across the bridge. Border support actions are also planned for Buffalo, New York, Vermont and the border near Vancouver, B.C. Other solidarity protests will be held in over 50 other locations throughout the Americas.
Many thousands of students, workers, farmers and people's organizations are expected to protest a meeting of the Ministers for the Economy and Trade from all countries of the Americas on April 6-7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This meeting is helping prepare the FTAA text for Quebec City.
Things have been heating up in Quebec as the summits draw near. In the past several months harassment and repression by the Canadian state has increased. According to an article in the Link, a newspaper from Concordia University in Montreal, the RCMP began making surprise visits and phone calls in January to activists organizing for the summit protests. Through internet spying, they developed a list of groups and individuals to target. A spokesperson for the RCMP told the Link that they were trying to determine how many people from each group were coming to Quebec City and who was in charge of security for the different groups. In a blatant effort to try and encouraging snitching and divisions within the movement, the RCMP said if groups acted as informers to turn in demonstrators who "break things" then police would only target these demonstrators instead of "the whole group." One activist who was called by the RCMP said, "Cops try to become friends with you and take you under their wing before demos. But they're really interested in repressing us."
In March, two members of CLAC and a member of the Independent Research Collective (CRAC) were stopped from leading a workshop on capitalism and the FTAA. The workshop, planned for Sorel-Tracy College in Quebec, was cancelled by the school administration. Authorities gave little explanation, stating only that that CLAC had a "confrontational attitude" towards the FTAA. At Concordia University, two leaders of the Concordia Student Union had charges brought against them in March for violation of University rules arising from student protests in February. Students were demonstrating against the Canadian Armed Forces and CSIS for their role in suppressing and criminalizing dissent in the summit protests and in general. Meanwhile, the Concordia University senate voted unanimously to allow students to defer final exams in order to attend the protests!
People have been outraged at Canada's repression against anti-summit activists. Calls have been circulated for tearing down the security wall around Old Quebec City where the summit will occur. A Quebec lawyer filed an injunction in March in Quebec Superior court against the erection of the wall and to prevent police interference with demonstrations.
There is broad opposition to the FTAA on many levels. One of the demands of several of the organizing groups in Quebec has been for the FTAA draft agreement to be made public. But the Canadian (and U.S.) government has refused to even allow people to see the contents of this plan--which will increase exploitation, poverty, and hardship for millions!
In Ottawa on April 2, 400 people organized by SalAMI gathered outside the foreign ministry building to demand the release of the FTAA text. Eighty-seven people were arrested when they climbed over barricades to conduct a "Citizens Search Warrant." Meanwhile, Canadian Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew announced that the release of the FTAA text was "absolutely unacceptable."
Thousands of riot police, miles of steel fences and at least one prison have been readied for the protesters. Liaisons between the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) and the Canadian military have been established. Border enforcement teams are scanning IDs and faces for known activists coming in from other countries. A number of people from the U.S. have already been prevented from crossing into Canada. And public opinion is being created by the police to try to intimidate protesters and cut off their support from the people.
On the other side, thousands of ordinary people from all over Canada and the U.S., from Mexico and South America, are mobilizing to descend on Quebec, full of determination that a different future will be written through their actions.
An excellent situation is shaping up for the people, with growing and broad resistance to the FTAA, imperialist globalization, and the whole people-destroying workings of the system. April 19-22 promises to be an exciting time as two very different futures, on different sides of the barricades, line up in Quebec City.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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