Socialist Worker

Another world is possible! Thousands attend counter-conference tour

Issue No. 1734

The Globalise Resistance counter-conference tour got under way last weekend with inspirational meetings in Glasgow and London.

The same spirit of resistance and debate this week hit the cities of Coventry, Birmingham, Leeds, Norwich, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield.

Over 500 people packed into the first conference in Glasgow last Friday and Saturday, and then on Sunday 1,300 people crammed into the London conference. 'We are no longer on the defensive. Things are changing worldwide,' said Tony Benn MP in London.

There was a strong feeling of being part of a growing and developing movement. It is a movement united by anger at the way the capitalist system and the market are wrecking lives across the planet.

People enthusiastically joined a wide range of workshops on issues from the arms trade to genetically modified food, from global warming to the myths of free trade, from US intervention in Colombia to transport chaos in Britain. There was discussion, argument and debate.

A highlight of the opening conferences was Kevin Danaher, one of the organisers of the great protest which stopped the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle at the end of 1999.

He inspired everyone with the message that 'the word revolutionary is making a comeback and we should be proud of that!'

Everyone grasped that globalisation demands global resistance, that we live in one world and there is one struggle.

The conferences were not just about debate, but about action. Dudley health strikers spoke about fighting against PFI privatisation. And at the London conference RMT rail union executive member John Leach got a standing ovation when he called on people to back the tube workers' strike. 'The slogan of this conference is 'Our world is not for sale',' he said. 'We say, 'Our tube is not for sale,' and thousands of striking tube workers are going to prove it beyond any doubt.'

Kevin Danaher, one of the organisers of Seattle

'The question confronting humanity is corporate rule or people's rule, and the two don't mix.

We need to distinguish between elite globalisation and people's globalisation. We need to create links at the grassroots level to interrupt the unity of the elites. We need to unite friends and divide enemies.

Our unity at Seattle scared them. Their divisions were intensified. Seattle was not spontaneous. We organised, we trained, we produced educational materials and websites. Mass education and mass mobilisation are our key tools in this battle.

Newsweek said after Seattle, 'there are now two visions of globalisation on offer. One is led by commerce and one is led by social activism.' We are in the first stages of the world's first global revolution. And we've got moral authority on our side. We are the ones who care.'

By CHRISTINE McGEACHIN, student at Glasgow Caledonian University

Our conference in Scotland last weekend was exhilarating. Trade unionists, students, environmentalists, community activists, CND members and socialists came together under the banner of anti-capitalism.

People glowed with enthusiasm after the rally on the first evening. At the workshops I went to the young and not so young, gay and straight, black and white discussed and debated how we build a movement and take the fight for a better world forward.

At the workshop on direct action people were inspired by the successes we heard about from the speakers. The discussion quickly turned into how we build for the big blockade of Faslane naval base that is going ahead on 12 February.

For myself, the highlight of the event was the final rally which was both moving and inspiring. The Chhokar family spoke about their courageous fight for justice.

It was great to be part of something broad, where so many people were united against a common enemy. The main debate was how we, ordinary grassroots people, can resist the neo-liberal policies of the IMF, World Bank and New Labour here in Britain. It was about how we can resist the multinational corporations, and that when we are united we can win!

'We are not tools of production. Let us put an end to slave drivers like McDonald's. If you want to win, the power to do so is in you-strike!'
JEAN CLAUDE RILCY, McDonald's worker in Paris, on their recent successful strike

Now stop GATS

'GATS, the General Agreement on Trade in Services, is one of the most critical issues at the moment.

It is an international agreement brokered through the World Trade Organisation that will give new rights to corporations.

It means that countries will have to open up their public services to private firms and then cannot reverse that privatisation even if it goes wrong. This is a grotesque extension of corporate power into new areas.

A further stage of negotiations over GATS will take place in Geneva next month. It will be finalised and signed by the end of next year if it is not stopped. Campaigning stopped the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. It helped stop the new round of WTO agreements in Seattle. We have to do the same over GATS.'
BARRY COATES, World Development Movement

'Britain now has one of the most deregulated business environments in the developed world.

It has one of the cheapest labour forces in the entire industrialised world. It has the lowest rate of corporate taxation-the burden has shifted massively from corporations to lower middle income households and the poor.

Corporations used to petition governments. Now it is the other way round. Deregulation is all done in the name of defeating protectionism. But what they class as protectionism is any attempt to protect the quality of life of people on this planet.

And while they are de-regulating the controls on business, we are being re-regulated through anti trade union legislation, through criminal justice legislation, through police and security services legislation which even gives them the right to read our emails.

These are all protections for big business against our right to fight back. But they are running scared. There was a time when we were frightened of them, but not any more.

They are running scared because their model of globalisation only benefits a tiny number of millionaires. We have confronted them and pushed them back. We are winning because we are many and they are few, and the tide we have unleashed cannot be stopped.'
GEORGE MONBIOT, journalist

'The corporate economy is taking over the world. Everyone presents this like it's a fact we have to accept, but we can stand up against it.'
KERRIE SHARRON, Edinburgh University

'Poverty the third world, inequality, the fact that life-threatening decisions are taken by a few people, these issues concern me, but people are taking up the cause.'
RITA ANDERSON, retired, Glasgow

'Today shows we can organise. That is necessary because capital is organised. They have their IMF, WTO, World Bank. They are organised to maximise profits and screw the rest of us.

They are also organised to put across an ideology, to tell us there is no alternative, that you cannot succeed against the multinational corporations and the market.

Steel workers accepted everything demanded by the market-job cuts, plant closures. Now more jobs will go because of the 'overproduction' of steel. What does that mean? Steel is needed so that buildings in India do not fall down in earthquakes, or for buses and trains that could cut pollution here.

What they mean is that the market cannot sustain production so jobs have to go. What do the Labour government say? They're very upset because nobody talked to them. When it comes to jobs-Rover, Ford, Vauxhall and now Corus-nobody in business talks to the government.

That's because the government's attitude to big business is that we'll lie down and let you roll all over us. In the counter-conference in Davos in Switzerland last month I met a man from Burkina Faso. He said that in his country life expectancy is 40 or 50. In Switzerland it is 20 or 30 years longer.

How can we live in a society where there is that kind of discrepancy on something as basic as human life? A better world is possible. It is also absolutely necessary if we want to end the this barbarism.'
LINDSEY GERMAN, editor of Socialist Review

Drop the Debt

'The debt burden is part of what I call the new imperialism. Countries have been destroyed by Western companies and banks, and people are now killing each other for water and other basic resources.

Financial assets have grown enormously in recent years. In 1992 they amounted to $35 trillion. By 2000 they were $53 trillion. The debts of the poorest 50 countries are worth around $150 billion, one quarter of one percent of the financial assets. But the IMF and the World Bank don't write off the debts.

Debt is an instrument of power. If the debt were removed it would liberate these countries. Jubilee 2000 opened up a way to discuss the issues of the poor. Let's understand some basic facts about debt:

Most of the debt owed by the poorest countries is never going to be repaid. Countries like Liberia are destitute and bankrupt. This is blindingly obvious to everyone except the bankers who demand money from these broken economies. We don't have debtors' prisons in Britain any more, but we do have prisons for countries. Zambia's debt is $7 billion and its annual income is $1 billion. Bankers keep piling on the interest and the debt grows and grows.

Some governments have pledged debt write-offs for a small range of countries. But the IMF and World Bank have not written off their debts. Yet the same countries who say they support debt relief dominate the IMF and World Bank.
ANN PETTIFOR, one of the founders of Jubilee 2000

Spread message

'This was the best conference I have been to for years. I've made contact with loads of great people, which will be so useful in the future.

I was worried that there would not be many trade unionists here and that I'd have to have a funny haircut, but I was quite wrong. All the issues that were discussed are important to workers. Across the world there's a push for privatisation, and we face moves to privatisation in the Post Office.

There was a real fighting spirit among the people at the conference. There is a new sense of struggle in Britain and it is up to us to take socialist arguments to the shop floor.'
LEE WAKER, political officer, East London Postal branch of the CWU union (personal capacity)

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Sat 10 Feb 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1734
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