Socialist Worker

From Porto Alegre to New York

Issue No. 1784

Peter Hain, former anti-apartheid activist and now minister for Europe, attacked the anti-capitalist movement last weekend. He claimed that the 300,000 people who protested against the G8 richest countries in Genoa last July were the 'violent elements of Europe's middle class'.

He said 'the voice of Africa's poor' is now being heard inside meetings of the powerful countries. He added that Labour was leading the fight to 'master globalisation in the interests of the poor'. But the gathering of tens of thousands of people at a counter-conference in Porto Alegre in Brazil, one of the world's poorer countries, shows that Hain's claims are lies. The effects of globalisation have created opposition across the globe.

This conference, from 31 January to 4 February, is called the World Social Forum. It will bring together leading figures who have spoken out against globalisation.

They will address meetings and workshops where activists can debate alternatives to globalisation and the power of the multinationals. The World Social Forum has been organised in opposition to the meeting of the world's bosses at the World Economic Forum meeting in New York next weekend. The 1,000 most powerful corporations in the world will meet to plan more free market chaos.

This private club includes Nike, General Motors, Microsoft and Monsanto, the multinational that peddles genetically modified food. The giant energy company Enron used to be a member before it went bust last December.

The forum helps big business dictate the agendas of the most important governments in the world. Its members include political leaders like US Secretary of State Colin Powell and New York's new billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

It paved the way for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) whose neo-liberal policies have brought misery to ordinary people across the globe. This powerful body switched its conference to New York after protests last year at the forum's usual venue in Davos, Switzerland.

Filipino writer and activist Walden Bello said at the time, 'We live on two different planets-Davos, the planet of the super-rich and Porto Alegre, the planet of the poor, the marginalised, the concerned. 'Here in Porto Alegre we are discussing how to save the planet.' Some 20,000 people from all over the world attended last year's Porto Alegre conference.

This success encouraged the organisers to set up a permanent organisation and encourage the development of social forums around the world. Already over 19,000 people have asked to register for this year's conference, on top of 3,507 organisations.

Thousands of students, anti-capitalists and trade unionists will demonstrate against the World Economic Forum meeting in New York itself. This shows the continuing resurgence of the anti-capitalist movement that business and political leaders hoped had been halted after the 11 September attacks in the same city.

Despite Hain's claims that globalisation reduces world poverty, a report released last week revealed that the sort of policies Labour supports have brought rocketing global inequality. The report, from a top World Bank economist, showed that the world's richest 50 million people earn as much as the poorest 2.7 billion.

That means the wealthiest 1 percent get as much as the poorest 57 percent. The report's author, Branko Milanovic, says, 'We can wonder how long such huge inequalities may persist in the face of ever closer contacts. These closer contacts are not least through television and movies, where opulent lifestyles of the rich influence expectations and often breed resentment among the poor. The rich may have to live in gated communities while the poor roam the world outside those few enclaves.'

His analysis shows that across the world inequality has been rising as rapidly as in Britain under Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.


United for justice

THE PROTESTS planned in New York against the World Economic Forum next weekend have won growing support. An organisation called Another World is Possible is coordinating those protests near to the luxury Waldorf-Astoria hotel where the forum is meeting. Students for Global Justice is also organising two days of meetings and workshops on the Thursday and Friday before the forum starts.

The US trade union federation, the AFL-CIO, have also set up a 'working families economic forum' on the Thursday. The AFL-CIO says that 'working families will tell the world's business leaders how the global economy and the race to the bottom for cheap labour affects their lives and communities.'

It will be followed by a march and rally against corporate-led globalisation and sweatshops. One of the organisers of the student conference, Hoang Gia Phan, explained how the students and workers plan to link up.

'The labour demo has been specifically timed during a break in our conference. We have coordinated with them to send the people attending our conference to this demo.' A recent article in The New York Times acknowledged the significance of the protest.

It listed anti-capitalist mobilisations: the Seattle and Genoa demonstrations and the protest outside the World Economic Forum in Davos last year.

The paper said if these 'are any barometer, city officials will have to be prepared to respond to radicalism of every stripe. In those places, and at similar events, demonstrators protested an array of issues from a globalised economy to the impact of businesses' practices on living standards.'

The New York police are also copying tactics from previous anti-capitalist protests. They are planning to use 'military tactics' and create a 'frozen zone' to protect the forum delegates in the Waldorf-Astoria. But the protesters are determined to show their opposition to the rally of the rich and powerful in New York.


ITALY: 200,000 MARCH

AROUND 200,000 people marched through Rome last Saturday against the right wing government's plans to introduce draconian polices against refugees


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Features
Sat 26 Jan 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1784
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