Prague: they came from across Europe
IMF meets its Seattle
"WE ARE doing this for all the millions of people all over the world who are killed by the policies of the IMF and the World Bank. We know the whole world is watching us today, and we want to show the whole world that we oppose the IMF, that we rebel against their rule, and that we will carry on fighting everything they stand for."
Those are the words of Silvio from Italy, one of the 20,000 protesters who besieged the IMF and World Bank conference in Prague on Tuesday. The BBC news on Tuesday night focused on the violence between police and some protesters.
But this came after a fantastic demonstration of opposition to globalisation, the free market and the inequality that exists across the world. The young marched alongside trade unionists. Greeks and Italians, Germans and Turks, linked arms together in solidarity.
Police blocked demonstrators on a bridge, beat them with truncheons, fired water cannon and sprayed them with pepper spray. The IMF and World Bank conference centre was like a bunker.
The lovers of free markets and open borders could only meet surrounded by the old fashioned armed might of the nation-state. The Czech authorities, who were aided and abetted by the CIA and the British police in the run-up to the protests, surrounded the conference centre with armed riot police and armoured cars.
But this did not deter demonstrators, who had gathered in Prague from early in the morning. The day began when over 1,000 marched from the Florenc bus station where their coaches dropped them off.
The unplanned demonstration, led by supporters of Socialist Worker and its sister papers elsewhere in Europe, spilled through the streets, loud and angry. They chanted, "People not profit!" and "Our world is not for sale-put the bankers in the jail!"
Many Prague people on the streets were stunned. Some were bemused. But there was no doubt others loved it. One man, grinning, urged the marchers "on to Wenceslas Square"-the scene of many great demonstrations in 1968 and 1989.
And so they went through Wenceslas Square and then on to join other protesters as they gathered in Prague's Namesti Miru, or Peace Square. There was a carnival-like atmosphere.
"The bankers show their solidarity today, but today we also show ours," said one demonstrator. A delegation from the youth of PASOK in Greece arrived, singing in Italian the socialist song, "Bandera Rossa".
Daniel Kulla from Dresden in East Germany said, "The IMF enslaves half the world. It has to be stopped. We are taking a stand. It is the only thing to do."
And Yiannis Megas, one of a delegation of over 30 telecom workers from Greece who face privatisation, said, "We came because we want to save our world. We came to demonstrate against poverty and against globalisation. The IMF does not help the Third World. It just exploits it. It just opens up the world for the multinationals. We are not against communication across the world. We are not for a closed world. But we don't want this sort of globalisation that destroys the world. We want a world where everyone comes together and says no to exploitation and unemployment."
The police had banned all the planned marches from the square. But no one cared. They spilled out onto the streets, whistling and chanting, "People not profit!"
The demonstrators did not stop the conference from meeting, but for hours the delegates were hemmed into the building, unable to leave. When it became clear the demonstrators could not break through the police lines, they remained determined to show their anger at the IMF and World Bank.
Thousands went on a second angry march through central Prague.
Antal Peringer, a rail worker from Budapest in Hungary, told Socialist Worker, "Today there were not enough of us to close them down. Today we were too few. But these people have huge power. They will carry on their search for profit. They will carry on trying to open up the world for the multinational corporations to exploit us. "We must carry on the fight also, in the East as well as in the West. All over the world we must carry on the fight."
"WE have come here today to join our voices with all the people and the workers of the world who are resisting globalisation and inequality. We want to send a strong message that our future will be different. In Greece we face employers who want to make us work longer hours. We face cuts in social services, unemployment and privatisation. We want a world for workers, for young people, for human need and not for profit."
- ARISTOMENIS SYNGELAKIS, student, Greece
"I am here to demonstrate against the World Bank and the IMF, but also against the whole system, the whole way the world runs, the way it is dominated by rich people and big companies, how everything is dominated by money and the market. There are many struggles we must wage. I marched against the Nazi Haider in Austria earlier this year. There were 50,000 of us. We stood in the same place that Hitler stood 50 years before us. But we need to do more than this. The whole world needs changing."
- JANA BORKOVEC, student, Austria
"The IMF is demanding open frontiers for the multinational corporations. In Colombia they are trampling over the rights of workers and indigenous peoples. The IMF wants the government to privatise health, communications and electricity. They will impose lower wages, they will increase prices for people who already have miserable conditions, who live on $1 a day, or who are forced to survive living on rubbish tips."
- AMPARO PIMICNTO, human rights worker, Colombia