Voices of protest
Why we march against IMF
AROUND 1,000 people across Britain will travel to Prague this weekend to take part in the "S26" anti-capitalist protest against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Those going, especially with trade union sponsorship, found people intensely interested in the issues surrounding the protest. Many going to Prague have pledged to report back to workmates, and school and college friends.
"It's nice to know I represent 30 or 40 people from work. That makes all the difference," says Heather, a council worker from Bristol. Heather won sponsorship from many of her colleagues for her fare to Prague, collecting �80 in three days.
"Lots know about Seattle," says Heather. "When you talk about Third World debt people go, 'Yes. It's nice to see someone fighting back.' These are workers in their forties and fifties. "I've been lent a good camera so I can take pictures to show when I get back. Prague means a lot to me. When I was younger I was really distressed about Biafra, Vietnam and what was happening to the environment. It's still happening, isn't it?"
London tube worker Finn Brennan also gained the support of his workmates: "Our ASLEF union branch is backing S26. "A number of people wanted to go to Prague but don't have the time. So they've delegated me, and they're going to the counter-conference in Brighton. We had a very good discussion about globalisation. At first people thought it was all far away. But we linked what Balfour Beatty is doing around the Illisu Dam in Turkey and its role in tube and education privatisation here in London. I was on the J18 City of London demo last year. It was obvious to me the anti-capitalist mood needs to be fed back into unions."
Elane Heffernan, who works for an east London council, said, "We've got three people so far going to Prague. Everyone thinks it's a good idea. People feel I'm going in their place. When I get back we're planning a report back meeting in a local community centre near work."
Lorraine Harding, a Nottingham civil servant, told Socialist Worker that people in her union branch were "very positive about Prague. People understand Third World debt, and that Gordon Brown has broken his promise to cancel it. Two people are going from our union."
Dave Sherry from Glasgow passed support for Prague in his TGWU union branch: "I can't go, but two women members are set to. At our 50-strong union branch meeting we had an exciting discussion about ecology and the destruction of the planet. About half a dozen people wished they could go to Prague but can't. Some people asked, 'Do you think there will be violence?' But not in a way that condemned the protesters."
Sixth form student Jethro Bor is going with two mates to S26. "We made a special appeal sheet to raise money. It said, 'My name is Jethro, and I'm going to Prague to demonstrate against the IMF. Will you sponsor me?' I got �46 going around teachers and pupils. People responded very positively. I now feel more pride in going. I even got sponsorship from nuns at one of the school sites. Last Thursday I held a lunchtime meeting with two speakers about the IMF. We put up posters everywhere, and 15 teachers and kids turned up. It was very successful. My English teacher asked me to write a report for when I get back."
S26 organising groups in Britain's cities worked up to the last minute to get people on coaches to Prague. Socialist Worker spoke to James Clarke, who has been building support in Sheffield. "We'll have 60 to 70 people going to Prague from Sheffield. A lot of my friends are going. There are socialists, workers and environmentalists going. Some people are taking holiday from work to get to Prague. I raised �90 having a house party. We've got a benefit gig this weekend and we've done street theatre dressed up as bankers. I wish I could have gone to Seattle. Now it's good something is happening in Europe. In Prague I'm really looking forward to linking with people from all over. I'm fully optimistic our mobilisation will get something achieved."