The World Bank cancelled the
conference it had planned for June 2001 in Barcelona, due to 'foreseeable protests'. This
was the official explanation given to the press. In fact, every summit of the
International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation in recent
years has been accompanied by noisy protests. Since Seattle, this protest movement can no
longer be overlooked, even in the North. The often-used term 'anti-globalisation movement'
is a misnomer, because it actually promotes the globalisation of protest.
There has been a new, world-wide dynamism within the movement since even before Seattle. A greater number of people have begun to take an interest in world trading structures and its consequences, and to make connections between world economic activities and their own daily life.
As far as these people are concerned, everything hasn't been done that could be done. They are not content with a mere reduction in exploitation through a few superficial reforms, or the introduction of a tax on the transfer of capital. Hence they don't only take to the streets at the locations of summits (Geneva, Cologne, Seattle, Prague, Davos) but also participate in global action days in various countries on different continents: the Philippines, Australia, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, India, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the USA, Israel, the Czech Republic, and many Western European countries. The series of World Action Days began on 18 May 1998 on the occasion of the WTO Conference in Geneva, when people in twenty-nine cities on all five continents took part in protests. In June 1999 it was more than forty cities. On 30 November 1999 (the WTO conference in Seattle), 1 May 2000, 26 September 2000 (the IWF/World Bank meeting in Prague) and further dates, successful protest continued.
These decentralised, autonomous groups which are taking action around the world attract large numbers because people can see how successful such activities can be. Within a short time, the idea to take action against capitalism has become a reality that no one previously thought possible. The social answer that we are experiencing today has mainly come about through the free and non-hierarchical articulations, on a global level, of independent entities and actions within a framework of mutual support and solidarity. The recruitment potential of these groups is due to their rejection of power structures and hierarchies within the movement as a whole.
The call for 'Days of Global
Action' was made by Peoples' Global Action (PGA), a network founded in February 1998 which
set a lot in motion in a short space of time, but remained largely unnoticed: many who
took to the streets during global actions days still haven't heard of PGA. The world-wide
movement against 'free' trade and the WTO doesn't see itself as a membership organisation
but as the loose network of grass-roots movements on all five continents. It is a network
for sharing experiences and co-ordinating actions.
The non-violent resistance mentioned in the five principles doesn't exclude actions such as those carried out by the KRRS in India. The KRRS stormed a factory of the US company Cargill, then set it on fire, and they have also destroyed branches of fast food chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds. The principle is that people should not be harmed.
through the network
It is important to embrace new forms of protest within this form of inter-continental co-operation, for example Italy's 'Tute Bianche' who, clothed in white overalls, symbolise the transformation of the invisible - i.e. the marginalised - to the visible. This is analogous with the black masks of the Zapatistas.
An activist from London's 'Reclaim the Streets' (RTS) describes the trying out of new forms of protest as follows: 'An important lesson learned by British grassroots groups is that all the interesting new approaches recently have emerged due to the convergence of movements, ideas, cultures, strategies etc. RTS is actually no more than a coming-together of the anti-road movement and the campaign against the new Criminal Justice Bill. And that itself was a coming-together of squatters, travellers, ravers, lawyers and demonstrators. Sometimes these unions only came about due to people using pre-conceived methods in another context. For example, tree- hugging, which originated in the USA to protect forests from clear-felling, has been used successfully in the UK against road construction. This isn't about pulling different movements together into one, but about multiplying them. It's not about establishing common aims, but about bringing about confrontation.'
instead of NGOs
This isn't about the usual 'solidarity' between North and South the projection of our own perspective on what the Trikont (developing countries) need. 'If you just came to help me, you can go home. But if you consider my struggle for survival to be your struggle too, then maybe we can work together'. These words of an Aboriginal woman became the motto of the PGA's manifesto. Despite differing personal circumstances and experiences and, even contradictory interests, it is possible to formulate common aims; a kind of getting back to basics. It's about reclaiming ones life and opportunities - individually as well as collectively - and taking active control of ones life, opening up new spheres of experience and action. This is where we have to seek the common ground. People are experiencing increasing exclusion, in that all decisions about their lives have been limited by seemingly unchanging structures and external forces. They are seeking to reclaim their lives, for their own survival. The Zapatistas call this 'preguntando caminamos', which can be translated as 'questioning, we set out on our journey'. This common search is what connects all people throughout the world who are struggling in their local context.
Many questions don't need
immediate answers. The PGA manifesto, the foundation stone for many grass-roots movements
and groups, is not yet perfect. Its analysis is very much based on economics. In general
it avoids naming capitalist power structures and talks vaguely of 'neoliberalism' without
defining the term precisely. Mention of patriarchy and gender issues is pretentious and
outrageously incomplete. The role of governments in globalisation is totally
under-represented. Neoliberalism is wrongly presented as a dichotomy of the 'good'
oppressed and the 'evil' companies, without considering the multi-layered dimensions of
development and of the establishment of social hegemony, and without recognising
individuals' involvement in power-structures.
There have been repeated
warnings in the globalisation debate about the right wing; however the feared merger of
left and right has not yet happened. Some anti-globalisation protesters just want to
preserve the welfare state in the North and protect it from neoliberalism. They exclude
the North-South dimension. Many leaflets simplify institutions such as the IMF and make
themselves sound very upset about the terrible consequences of globalisation. There is no
widespread recognition that capitalist exploitation has been international ever since
And yet, the unbelievable dynamism within PGA has already produced many examples of new co-operation between groups in different countries. The network is at its strongest when it is not visible, when a dynamism evolves out of lively local discussions which then lead to local actions with cross-continental links.
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