Revolutionary Worker #1127, November 18, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
As U.S. bombs continue to fall on the people of Afghanistan, the imperialist powers are also pursuing their interests on another front this month. On Nov. 9-13, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is holding its 4th ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar. And the G20 countries (the world's largest economies), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank are meeting Nov 17-18 in Ottawa, Canada.
As we go to press, people in many countries are protesting the WTO meeting. And activists from North America are heading to Ottawa to confront the G20/IMF/World Bank. Plans have been laid to counter the future that the global predators offer to the world's people--more impoverishment, more brutality, and more ecological destruction. Many of the protests include important demands against the U.S. war, racism, and new repressive measures.
Continuing Protests in the Face of the Clampdown
Over the past several years, people around the world have come forward to fight the financial institutions, trade organizations, corporations, and governments of global capitalism that ruthlessly exploit and oppress the majority of the people on this planet. This movement became a growing threat to the capitalist powers--they could not meet anywhere without being besieged by powerful, coordinated protests.
But since September 11, the U.S. and its allies have tried to declare the anti-globalization movement "out of order." Bourgeois spokesmen have even attempted to link the anti-capitalist globalization forces with terrorism, claiming there is a common "ideological link." In the name of "war on terrorism," the U.S. and other countries have moved to pass new laws greatly increasing police powers against the people. The U.S. "anti-terrorism" law (and similar legislation proposed in Canada) defines terrorism as the commission of a felony intended to cause change in government policies. Such laws can be used to suppress all kinds of protest and dissent. Many activists have pointed out that under these new laws, people doing political protests (for example, non-violent direct action to stop IMF meetings), and even those who provide housing and other assistance to such protesters, could be declared "terrorists."
Meanwhile, Bush has declared that expanding U.S. global trade is an important part of the "war on terrorism." The administration has been pushing for presidential "fast track" authority--giving the president greater power by requiring congress to vote on trade agreements without making any changes.
In the wake of Sept. 11, activists in the global movement for justice and against capitalist globalization have gone through much soul searching and debate about the war, the new political terrain, and how to respond in the face of intensified governmental repression. Some voices have said people should go slow, even stay out of the streets, because of the ugly chauvinist climate and fear of government attack. Others have said strongly that now is the time to go forward with protests--not retreat, engage in self-censorship, or bow to threats. And they have stressed the imporatnce of denouncing the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The November protests are an important advance in countering the system's attacks on the people and continuing the movement's momentum.
No to WTO!
The WTO is dominated by and serves the interests of the U.S. and other large capitalist countries. The WTO serves as an instrument to knock down obstacles to the free flow of investment capital and to expand profit-making. WTO rules declare that labor, health, and environmental laws of particular countries are "barriers to free trade." The WTO also expands capitalist control of the collective knowledge of humanity--turning more ideas, plant seeds, and living organisms into "intellectual property" to be bought and sold.
The last time the WTO held a ministerial-level meeting was in Seattle in 1999. Tens of thousands protested, and the WTO meeting collapsed amidst street fighting and blockades. That was an international embarrassment for the U.S. and a stunning victory for the poor, oppressed, and enlightened. WTO officials originally picked Qatar for this year's meeting because it's an Arab emirate run with an iron hand where no protests are allowed. But now with a U.S. war in Afghanistan inflaming anger among millions of Muslims and others, U.S. government officials are a little jittery.
U.S. and European Union (EU) officials are also anxious about the outcome of the meeting itself. Conflicts among member WTO nations that surfaced in Seattle are still present and may be growing. The New York Times (Nov. 1) noted that there is danger of the talks again failing due to divisions between some of the "developing countries" and the imperialist countries. The U.S. and EU are forging ahead with their plans to call for a new round of trade talks to expand the WTO's agenda, while many of the governments of the poorer countries want to see changes in the current rules to "fix" the WTO. The U.S. and EU have apparently worked hard to try to smooth out the differences between them that contributed to the Seattle collapse, but whether they can move ahead with their plans remains to be seen.
The imperialists are also worried about the overall situation of the world economy. The Times article reflects this concern: "The risks are arguably greater than they were in Seattle. The leading industrial nations are experiencing a rare simultaneous economic slump. World trade flows are shrinking for the first time in two decades. A trade agreement has been viewed as vital to opening new markets and spurring business development." Some "trade experts" are saying that if WTO doesn't go forward now, it would further lose legitimacy or even collapse totally, leading to intensified competition among the wealthy capitalist countries. And now the movement against imperialist globalization is rallying to mount another challenge, even as international anti-war protest and resistance, as well as public opinion against the U.S. war, builds.
As we go to press, protests against WTO are underway. A protest of 50,000 reportedly took place in New Delhi, India, on Nov. 6--one of many planned for India. Trade unions, environmentalists, fair-trade groups, global justice activists, peasants, student organizations, anti-imperialists, workers, revolutionaries, and others have plans for hundreds of different events worldwide. Dozens of actions are planned in Germany, France, and Italy and other European countries. A number of events are planned in Canada. In the Philippines there will be a human chain in front of the U.S. Embassy. Events are planned in many other countries, including Turkey, Thailand, Australia, Tunisia, and Bangladesh.
People's Global Action is one of the groups that have called for worldwide actions against the WTO meeting. They call for "maximum disruption of the work of the trade ministers attending the conference"--through blockages of departure of ministers from their home countries and mass coordinated actions worldwide, including "work stoppages, road blocks, occupation of stock exchanges," land occupations, etc.
In the U.S., anti-WTO protests are planned in New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other cities. Anti-corporate globalization and peace groups have joined together in San Francisco for a demo with the slogan "Globalize Justice, Not War." In New York, direct action and global justice activists are holding a "Strategy Summit on Global Corporate Power and Democracy" for Nov. 8-10 to discuss the way forward for the movement in the context of the new political situation.
Shut Down the G20/IMF/World Bank!
The Ottawa G20 meeting was only announced in October. The G20 decided to include important committees of the IMF and World Bank in the meeting. The IMF/World Bank had canceled their meetings planned for Washington, DC, at the end of September.
The IMF and World Bank are two major imperialist financial institutions that practically run the economies of many poor nations. IMF Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs)--forced on countries as conditions for debt bailouts--cause great hardship to the people of the poor nations. SAPs force affected governments to carry out cuts in social services and wages, layoffs of government workers, weakening of environmental laws, etc. World Bank "development" projects cause widespread destruction of the environment and people's way of life in many countries.
Several groups are calling for people to come to Ottawa to protest against the G20/IMF/World Bank meetings. The Ottawa Coalition Against the Tories (OCAT) is calling for a rally and snake-dance march on Nov. 16 to oppose the meetings. The call says speakers will "target the links between IMF/World Bank/G20 activities and the War on Afghanistan." An anarchist collective called the Black Touta has put out a mobilization call for Nov. 17-18 to shut down the meetings through militant snake marches, occupation of strategic locations, and tearing down of police fences if they are built. The call criticizes Canada's "anti-terrorism" bill and says, "Join us in Ottawa for Nov. 17, and we will confront the police state and demand our rights to freedom."
The Global Democracy Ottawa coalition is also mobilizing for protests, teach-ins and other events from Nov. 16-19. Their call states, "In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the World Bank, the IMF and the G20 have not stopped or slowed their agenda of injustice, racism, and despair. Indeed, the forces of globalizing violence are themselves seeking to exploit the tragedy of Sept. 11, stepping up their campaigns against people, communities and environments around the world. We cannot afford to cease our fight against the forces of corporate globalization on any front. Now, more than ever, we must vocally and actively work to tear down the systems of death and oppression that surround us and lift up a vision for a better world."
The September 11th Peace Coalition has called for a "Cross Canada Day of Action Against War and Corporate Globalization" to be held on Nov. 17 in conjunction with the protests in Ottawa. This coalition is made up of a number of peace, labor, student, religious, women's, environmental, cultural and community groups.
The November protests are important manifestations of the determination of people worldwide to refuse to go along with the future of bloodshed, imperialist domination, and repression that the U.S. and its allies are planning. The imperialists are trying to smash the dreams of the oppressed for a different future, but the people mobilizing for the November protests are determined to make these dreams into reality. It's important that these protests be broadly supported and spread.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)