26 September, a chance to take on the bankers
Support grows for Prague demo
MOBILISATION for Prague is taking off. Prague collectives are being set up all over Britain to get people to the demonstration planned against the IMF and the World Bank in the Czech Republic on 26 September (S26).
Some 20,000 bankers will descend on Prague to further the free market policies that are wrecking lives and the environment. But protesters plan a series of events opposing the bankers. The first meeting of Birmingham’s Prague Collective took place last week and was a great success. It involved people from Friends of the Earth, People and Planet, CND and the SWP.
They invited a speaker from the London S26 Collective to give a general introduction about Prague and the demonstration, and then planned what they are doing locally. “Everyone was really up after the meeting,” says one of the organisers. “We were all dead sure that we are going to get a coach and that we are going to be in Prague! Three people volunteered to be in charge of publicity and were swapping phone numbers and ideas at the end of the meeting. We’re going to have stalls in the city centre and organise a public meeting.”
The Birmingham Collective also unanimously decided to back the anti-capitalist counter-summit that will take place in Brighton on Sunday 24 September.
South east London’s Prague Collective involved local activists and students from Goldsmiths’ College. It also began with an introduction by someone from the London S26 Collective.
“There was a good cross- section of people who will spread the word in the area,” says one of those involved. “We had a really good brainstorming session about what we can do locally, and what organisations and individuals we can approach to get involved. Everyone went away with someone to contact or something to do. Our coach is already booked. We’re going to put out a sponsorship sheet so that those who are going can raise funding. We plan a benefit gig and we hope to get British trade unions to send messages of support to Czech trade unions. We think that is important because the union involvement at Seattle was fantastic.” The idea of being part of something like Seattle is what inspires people about Prague.
A tube worker in London says, “A number of us are planning to go to Prague. People are excited because it is not a normal demonstration. The TV coverage of Seattle really had a big impact on people. You just say the word ‘Seattle’ and people immediately know what you are talking about, and they like the idea of being involved in something like that in Europe.”
Jubilee 2000 is also mobilising for Prague. It is holding a demonstration on Sunday 24 September and its website says, “Book your place to Prague now! The G8 leaders left the island of Okinawa after failing to agree a new deal on debt cancellation. It’s time to channel our anger at the G8’s failure into concrete action to intensify the pressure.”
It is time to get moving over Prague.
US unions on board
A DAY of local protests across the US on 26 September has won backing from the very top of the union movement. The AFL-CIO national union federation and the United Steelworkers of America are among those calling for total opposition to the policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The statement ends, “Only when the well-being of all is given priority over corporate profits shall we achieve genuine sustainable development, justice, equality and peace.”
Brighton as well
BRIGHTON WILL not only host the Labour Party conference this September. It will also see a counter-conference in solidarity with Prague. Speakers include campaigner Susan George, columnist and activist George Monbiot, comedian Rob Newman, Tony Benn MP, peace campaigner Bruce Kent and Chris Harman, editor of Socialist Worker.
The S24 counter-summit will include sessions on Globalisation and Resistance; Africa: Famine, Debt and Revolt; and Labour and the Arms Trade. There will be a video link to the events in Prague and the conference will end with a protest march to the Labour Party conference.
A buzz across Europe
IN GREECE the Prague protest is getting a brilliant response. The Athens “Prague 2000” committee issued a statement backing the protests against the World Bank and IMF. It calls for resistance and ends, “Let’s change our future and create a new world!”
It has already been signed by the vice-president of the Greek TUC, the president of the bank workers’ union and executive members of the teachers’ unions, the civil servants’ union federation, and the local government workers’ union-as well as a wide range of the left in Greece.
Panos Garganas, editor of Workers’ Solidarity, Socialist Worker’s sister paper in Greece, says: “The Greek press is already talking about a ‘new spring in Prague’. This initiative is getting official support from the unions. You can sense the unions feel that Prague is going to be an important event. Seattle is now the code word for anti-capitalism. As soon as you mention that word, everybody knows what you are talking about. Every union in Greece affiliates to both a national union federation and a local labour centre. Now the three biggest and most important labour centres in Greece-Athens, Salonika and Piraeus-are officially backing Prague, sponsoring buses and sending representatives. Athens is half of Greece, so the Athens labour centre is the most important in the country. It passed a motion that ended by saying Prague ‘gives the labour movement all around Europe the opportunity to demonstrate there is a global resistance to the forces of capital. We hope that all the trade unions in Europe will be present at this big mobilisation in order to make Prague the new Seattle’.”
In Turkey there is also a good response. The first Prague campaign meeting in Ankara attracted 33 people. In just two days they got three important trade union bodies to back their statement about Prague. They are the Ankara district of the biggest left wing union federation, the union for public sector workers in energy and construction, and the union for public sector workers in the ministry of labour and social security.
And in France around 70 people gathered in Paris last Saturday to discuss building the anti-capitalist movement following the recent 100,000 strong protest in Millau, southern France. People reported that the left wing SUD trade union federation is now putting on a train to take people to Prague.
Videos can raise cash
INPEG WAS set up in the Czech Republic to mobilise against the IMF and the World Bank summit. It plans the demonstration on Tuesday 26 September as well as a counter-summit the weekend before, and a whole series of lectures, protests and cultural events.
INPEG has now produced a short video about the up and coming protests in Prague. The South East London Prague Collective plans a fundraiser that will show both the battle of Seattle video and the INPEG video to raise money for their coach. Other collectives could follow this idea. The video costs 4 and is available from INPEG or the London S26 Collective.
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