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Get the corporations off our backs

This article is over 19 years, 4 months old
NAOMI KLEIN, author of No Logo, talks to Socialist Worker from the protests in Johannesburg
Issue 1815

‘PEOPLE ARE on the streets here because the process since the Rio Earth Summit has clearly failed. We don’t need more promises to tackle poverty and environmental destruction. We need action – action to regulate polluting multinational corporations – and we need redistribution of wealth.

That can only be done by community control and democracy, and that is not on the agenda at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The summit is a greenwash of the same things we have heard from G8 summits and the World Trade Organisation. It’s about more globalisation and more privatisation. They are saying the only route to sustainable development is partnership with business and self regulation of multinational corporations.

That’s absurd – not just because it has failed since Rio, but because after the Enron scandal the idea that the corporations can be trusted to regulate themselves is a joke. The summit claims to be about helping the poor. But it is taking place in a compound to keep such people out.

There is a giant search park. People are corralled away from the summit. There is a surveillance plane and 10,000 police. The South African government has decided that the summit is a good opportunity to promote tourism. So poor people are being cleared away from visible sites. Street vendors and beggars have been removed, and people evicted from squatter camps and moved out of sight.

Particular targets have been local activists in South Africa, like the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee and the Landless People’s Movement. We marched last Saturday as international activists in solidarity with local activists. We wanted to send a clear message that they can’t co-opt international activists and repress local activists. Last Saturday we marched against the repression that took place over the previous days.

We got one block and were stopped by police. Without warning they fired percussion grenades. Some people got quite badly burned on the legs. We sat down in protest. Oscar Olivera, leader of the successful resistance to water privatisation in Bolivia, gave a powerful speech comparing the struggle happening in South Africa with that in Bolivia.’

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