OVER 1,000 people gathered in London last Saturday for an anti-capitalist conference organised by Globalise Resistance. Throughout the day the main venue, the former Hammersmith Palais, was a throng of people, debate and discussion.
The conference was called before the attack on the World Trade Centre and George Bush’s threats to bomb Afghanistan. But everyone wanted to discuss the threat of war and how to build a large, vibrant and united anti-war movement.
Luca Casarini from the Italian White Overalls Movement spoke about how we have to challenge the threats of war. ‘After what has happened in New York the system has shown it can’t live without war,’ he said.
‘This is the only way the system can maintain control when billions are dying of hunger. How can the system keep control when billions don’t have access to water? How can they keep control of the system in the West when millions understand the experience of sackings and don’t have decent treatment in hospitals? They haven’t got to declare war-war is already here, and we have to disobey. To disobey in war isn’t just an act of humanity, although humanity is important. It is a way to begin to create a different world. The world we want to create isn’t possible without fighting neo-liberalism. We must combat this war with words and a strategy to build a worldwide movement against neo-liberal barbarity. Capitalists say we are against globalisation. We are for the globalisation of a dream. We are fighting for a world where justice and peace aren’t just words uttered by slick presenters.’
Chris Harman, editor of Socialist Worker, explained, ‘With the threat of war, the mood of Genoa can be put out of our minds. But it represented a fantastic display of how big worldwide the anti-capitalist movement has become. In Seattle, which took place 20 months ago, there were 30,000 to 50,000 people. In Genoa the demonstration took hold of a European city and was five or six times the size of Seattle. Genoa was a huge learning process, with many suddenly understanding that individual actions are not an answer to the system. People learned mass action. When George Bush and Tony Blair decided to take the atrocity of the World Trade Centre to pump up their drive for war, my first thought was that they have whipped up such a scare the anti-capitalist movement will be dented. But we have had another learning process. People involved in the movement against globalisation have seen the other side of globalisation is its military arm. The future lies in becoming an anti-capitalist movement against capitalist exploitation and against capitalist war. We have to build protests and unity in a fight against economic exploitation and a fight against war.’
Oscar Olivera was one of the key leaders of the victorious fight against water privatisation in Bolivia last year. He had travelled for 27 hours to attend the conference, including being harassed by immigration officials at Heathrow airport.
He spoke out against Bush’s threat of war. ‘The faceless market and its rule has given rise to faceless terrorism as a response,’ he said. ‘People across the world had a common interest in fighting back together. Many people in the Third World think in the developed world there are no problems. ‘But I see people everywhere fighting the same things-against privatisation and unemployment, for better conditions.
‘The war opens up future links. No one really wants war. ‘We should be anti-war, anti-privatisation and anti-globalisation.’ Oscar gave an inspiring account of the Bolivian people’s successful struggle in Cochabamba against water privatisation and Aguas del Tunari, a multinational made up of Bechtel and United Utilities.
He said, ‘One of the things globalisation has allowed is for people to come together to talk about something that has not been privatised-the right to dream of a better world. We had a victory for all those fighting for a different world-we expelled a multinational from Bolivia. When they privatised all of the water we had a five month long struggle. The price of water rose by between 35 percent and 300 percent. Every lake, river and well became the property of Aguas del Tunari. People said, ‘Enough is enough,’ and set up roadblocks. Around 600,000 people were involved in the struggles. It was successful and the water was de-privatised. But people also decided they needed something more. I live in a city of 1.5 million people where 60 percent have an average income of $1 a day. We want real democracy where not just political parties and those who govern us have a say. If we can beat a multinational in Bolivia, we can defeat the system, terrorism, capitalism, and the whole model that this society is run under.’
The conference was packed with workshops and debates. These included ‘Refugees: scapegoats of globalisation’, ‘Afghanistan: broken by the big powers’, and ‘WTO, World Bank, IMF: is reform possible?’ There were also sessions on climate change, workers against globalisation and many others.
Hundreds of people heard journalists John Pilger and Paul Foot speak on ‘Controlling the message: the media, the movement and the war’. Both spoke about the complicity of the mainstream press in failing to report the truth about war, and instead acting as the mouthpieces of George Bush, Tony Blair and the military.
Paul Foot spoke of how media workers could organise to oppose the war. An Express journalist was cheered when she told of how workers had passed a motion which condemned the witch-hunting of refugees by owner Richard Desmond.
One of the highlights of the conference was the showing of a video of the protests in Genoa. Those who watched the video were inspired by the size, spirit and determination of the protesters.
And they were shocked by the ferocity of the police violence. After the video there was a huge round of applause, and people went to queue up to join Globalise Resistance.
There were stalls for an array of groups, including the Green Party, Colombia Solidarity Campaign and the Campaign for Palestinian Rights. ‘I’ve never been to anything like this,’ said Sergio, a 17 year old student. ‘I came because I wanted to hear about the Genoa protests. My family are from Costa Rica, which has been a victim of globalisation. It has been really great, and I have found out so much about taking a stand against the war.’
NHS worker Rebecca Brown had travelled with two friends from Birmingham. She said, ‘For me it’s been about realising that people don’t have to put up with New Labour and accept the way things are.’
KEY FIGURES on the left came together to set out the challenges facing the anti-capitalist movement in the session ‘Resisting McLabour-how do we stop the neo-liberals destroying our world?’
Mark Serwotka, general secretary elect of the civil servants’ PCS union, said that even with the drive to war, ‘Working class people aren’t prepared to be silent. There are high levels of resistance in the post, rail, and tube.’
Former Labour MP Tony Benn said, ‘The movement against global capital is identical to the movement for peace.’ He was cheered when he said, ‘If you are serious about terrorism, the first thing you do is ban the arms trade.’
Anti-racist campaigner Suresh Grover said the anti-racist movement and community leaders needed to be at the heart of the campaign against the war. He spoke of how racists were using the threat of war as a green light to go on the offensive.
John Rees of the Socialist Alliance spoke of how there had been no official mourning from politicians at the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children because of sanctions against Iraq: ‘Half a million children, half a million innocent children of innocent parents. That’s not an act of civilisation-that’s an act of barbarism.’
Everyone spoke of the urgent need to build a mass anti-war movement involving trade unionists, anti-racists, women’s groups and the growing anti-capitalist movement.
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