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It’s right to protest against capitalism

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Issue 1744

What we think

It’s right to protest against capitalism

THE POLICE are whipping up an atmosphere of fear and intimidation around this year’s May Day anti-capitalist protests. They are promising a “zero tolerance” approach. “Snatch squads” will be used to arrest “ringleaders”.

All police leave in London has been cancelled, and an extra 5,000 officers will be on duty. The police are attempting to both intimidate people to stop them joining the protests and brand all those who do as violent and mindless troublemakers.

Thousands were to defy similar repressive measures and smears in Quebec City, Canada, this week. In what was expected to be the biggest anti-capitalist protest in North America since Seattle, demonstrators were to take to the streets against George W Bush and the 33 other national leaders who were to attend the Summit of the Americas.

Top of the agenda for the conference is the expansion of the NAFTA agreement that “opened up” the Mexican economy so that multinationals could exploit cheap Mexican labour.

Now politicians and their business friends want to create a massive free trade zone across the whole of North and South America by tearing up all “barriers to trade”-that means ripping up anything that attempts to protect workers’ rights or the environment.

The Quebec authorities said they were desperate to “learn the lessons of Seattle”, and so built a wall around the entire conference centre to keep protesters out.

The ten-foot high wall of concrete and chain-link fencing is six miles long. Thousands of police officers were to line up against it, including more than 3,000 members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2,000 members of the Quebec provincial police, and hundreds more officers from local police departments with trained dogs.

Police officials even cleared the jails weeks ago, ready for those they intended to arrest, and tried to get a ban on the wearing of scarves! But these measures are a sign of just how terrified those at the top have become. Just look at Europe this summer.

From Gothenburg in Sweden to Salzburg in Austria, Barcelona in Spain and Genoa in Italy, the rich and powerful will be greeted with protests whenever they try to meet in Europe this summer. We must not be intimidated. We must assert our right to protest against the brutalities meted out by capitalism and keep the pressure on those at the top.

One reason to fight back

GORDON BROWN last week refused to back debt cancellation by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. He was responding to a report from the Drop the Debt campaign organisation. It showed that debt cancellation is more urgent than ever, that the IMF and World Bank are the key players, and that they could easily afford to cancel all the money they are owed by poor countries.

New Labour likes to pretend that it cares about Third World debt. Just before Christmas Gordon Brown announced that Britain would no longer collect debt payments from 41 poor countries. This meant giving up a claim on just 29 million a year. But the real issue for these countries is their debts to the IMF and World Bank. Burkina Faso owes Britain $1 million. It owes the World Bank and IMF over $800 million.

Ghana owes the British Treasury $18 million. But it owes the IMF and World Bank over $3,200 million. Brown is chairman of the IMF’s key policy committee. He poses as the friend of the poor while tightening the vice on them through global financial institutions.

The IMF and World Bank strategy is to control the economies of poor countries through the debt mechanism. Meanwhile 19,000 children die each day as a result. Brown’s stance is one more reason to protest at the Genoa G8 summit in July. 

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