Socialist Worker

Clamouring for debate

Issue No. 1716

Clamouring for debate

THOUSANDS OF protesters flooded into Prague last weekend in the run-up to the demonstration on Tuesday 26 September.

There were debates and discussions about the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, globalisation and resistance all over the city. People gathered and organised at a huge "convergence centre".

Hundreds more packed into the counter-summit which took place at three different sites across the city over three days. The protesters wanted not only to demonstrate but to further their understanding of what they are fighting.

The counter-summit heard speeches from individuals prominent in the anti-capitalist movement, but also from movements against neo-liberalism and against the effects of IMF policies.

Speakers from Brazil and Ecuador, from Colombia and Nicaragua, from India and Sri Lanka spoke of their struggles.

Naomi Klein from Canada spoke of how "the directors of the IMF want governments to slash taxes, to privatise and to deregulate in the interests of the multinational corporations. But the multinationals have helped us to see the problem we face as one system that puts short term profit first. Thanks to Monsanto, farmers in India are working with environmentalists. Thanks to Shell, people are linking their fight with the Ogoni people in Nigeria. And in Canada paper mill workers and environmentalists are joining forces against the logging companies that devastate the environment and turn mill towns into ghost towns."

Boris Kagarlitsky from Russia spoke about how the transition to the market in Eastern Europe has been a succession of broken promises. He inspired people with a vision that the people of Eastern Europe too were now becoming part of the global movement against the IMF and its policies.

Eric Toussaint, author of Your Money Or Your Life, spoke of how the protests have thrown the IMF and the World Bank onto the defensive. But he slammed their sham talk of poverty reduction and urged the movement to keep up the fight.

Walden Bello from the Philippines was cheered when he told the counter-summit, "Our job is not to focus our efforts on the reform of these institutions. We want to disable them, disempower them and disband them. Our job is to deepen the crisis of legitimacy of the whole system. We want to disempower the people who commit corporate crime against people and the environment and who create a world of anarchy, scarcity and conflict."

Around 600 people packed into the final session on "Globalisation: where do we go from here?" with a panel that included Socialist Worker's Alex Callinicos. After the end of the counter-summit over 3,000 people staged a militant and angry march through the streets of central Prague.

The demonstrators were demanding the authorities allow a train of 1,200 people from Italy, held at the border, into the Czech Republic. And they were demanding the Czech government lifts its ban on Tuesday's march.

Debt-'one face of a big problem'

OVER 1,000 people joined an international Jubilee 2000 demonstration on Sunday morning.

It was a colourful mix of anti-debt campaigners from all over Europe. They included delegations from UNISON in Britain, who marched through the streets of Prague chanting and whistling and then tore in half a huge chain symbolising the chains of debt.

"There are 140 of us here from Belgium," Stephanie Melkebeke told Socialist Worker. "We came because it is important we all stand together. We are all part of the same fight, all over the world."

Eddie from Norway said, "I came here to be part of this movement against capitalism. We are fighting powerful institutions. It is important that ordinary people who oppose them show that we are many."

Adolfo Ranera, a computer worker from Spain, told Socialist Worker, "We are fighting for the cancellation of all Third World debt. We organised a people's referendum across Spain. One million people voted, and 97 percent want to cancel the debt. But debt is only one face of a big problem. The IMF, the World Bank, debt, poverty, the multinational corporations-they are all connected."

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Sat 30 Sep 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1716
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