Protests after Seattle
Mood against corporations
ABOUT 150 people gathered in London last Saturday to discuss building on the victory against the World Trade Organisation in Seattle last November. There was useful discussion about the lessons from Seattle, and about organising around a series of events and protests scheduled for the next few months.
Barry Coates from the World Development Movement told the audience, "In the past people thought we were not strong enough to take on the monster of the WTO. But we did, and that's a great message to spread. It should build confidence in what we can do when we get together. Inside the negotiations at Seattle we saw the reality behind all the talk of a 'progressive' British and European Union stance. Even before the proper talks began they gave away key concessions to the US over biotechnology and other aspects of the environment."
He then outlined a number of forthcoming meetings where governments and big business will try to recover the ground they lost in Seattle. These include the Washington meeting of the IMF and World Bank in the spring, and the summit of the G8 industrialised countries in Okinawa, Japan, in July. Bigger They will see protests in the countries where they occur and events in Britain as well.
Barry Coates finished by calling for a bigger and more educated movement for fairness and justice. Author Colin Hines added that what really worried the WTO and its supporters was that their actions were now public knowledge: "Millions more people now know about these sorts of organisations, and they know the reality is ugly." He said it was time for those who had been involved in the movement against the WTO to move from "opposition to proposition".
This led to a wide-ranging discussion from the floor. Some speakers argued for "a localised economy" or reform of the UN. Others stressed that we need broad unity in action against the WTO and similar enemies, but that change requires socialist politics and a focus on the organised working class. Everyone agreed to keep working and debating together. In particular, it was decided to make a special effort to publicise the activities planned around May Day in Britain this year.
At present a number of campaign groups and trade unions are drawing up their plans for 1 May. About 50 people met in Sheffield last week to plan a local protest for that day.
THE NESTL� 16, activists arrested in Halifax on 30 November, will appear in court next month. They are charged with a very serious crime just for protesting. On 30 November about 50 people entered the Nestl� factory and climbed onto the roof. They unfurled a banner saying, "People and planet before profit".
Many of the Nestl� workers clapped and cheered the demonstrators. Sixteen were arrested and charged with statutory conspiracy to commit burglary. This could lead to long prison sentences.
- Protest: Defend the Nestl� 16, Tuesday 22 February, 9.30am, Halifax Magistrates Court, Harrison Road, Halifax. Send messages of support to Nestl� 16, 10 Broughton Street, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire HX7 8JY. Phone 01422 844710 (ask for Penny or Billy).
THE Association for the Tobin Tax for Aid to Citizens (ATTAC) is to be launched in Britain. The Tobin Tax, named after James Tobin, who first popularised the idea, would be a tax on financial speculation. Every day about �1 trillion flows through the foreign exchange markets. War On Want estimates that a 0.25 percent tax would raise over �150 billion a year.
The French ATTAC group has 40,000 members and has become the focus for massive feeling about the inequality in the world, and against the obscene wealth of the few at the top. After the initial meeting later this month a wider launch will be held at the TUC's Congress House on Saturday 19 February.
- Meeting about ATTAC in Britain, Saturday 29 January, 11am-1.30pm, French Institute, 17 Queensbury Place, London SW7. For details phone 020 8444 4322.