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The year of globalised resistance

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Issue 1725

SEATTLE November 1999-NICE December 2000

The year of globalised resistance

IT IS one year since the 60,000-strong protest in Seattle which united trade unionists and environmentalists against the effects of global capitalism. Despite heavy police repression, protesters disrupted the meeting of the World Trade Organisation and forced it to abandon its talks without any agreement being made.

Seattle sparked an explosion of protest around the world. It inspired and radicalised millions of people, and marked the beginning of a vibrant and growing anti-capitalist mood. Wherever world leaders and their bankers met this year they were greeted with a hail of protest.

  • APRIL: 40,000 people laid siege to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meeting in Washington. It was the culmination of a week of protests, teach-ins and rallies. The US magazine Business Week said, “The protesters have tapped in to growing fears that US policies benefit big companies instead of average citizens-of America or any other country.”
  • JUNE/JULY: An estimated 100,000 gathered for an anti-capitalist festival in Millau in the south of France. They were defending French farmer Jos Bov, on trial for dismantling a local McDonald’s.
  • JULY: 5,000 Japanese people demonstrated against world leaders meeting at the G8 summit.
  • AUGUST: Huge demonstrations outside both the Republican and Democratic conventions in the US. Some 10,000 people protested against the Republicans in Philadelphia, while 50,000 joined the band Rage Against The Machine in a mass protest against the Democrats in Los Angeles.
  • SEPTEMBER: 10,000 protesters, including Aboriginal activists and school students, blockaded the meeting of the World Economic Forum in Melbourne, Australia.
  • SEPTEMBER: 20,000 people from across Europe converged in Prague in the Czech Republic against the IMF and World Bank. A week of protests forced the IMF to close the meeting a day early. Prague inspired solidarity demonstrations from Brazil to India.

“Seattle was a fork in the road.”

  • Ralph Nader, candidate in US presidential election backed by the Green Party

“Many people now think of multinationals as more powerful than nation-states, and see them bent on destroying livelihoods, the environment, left wing political opposition and anything else that stands in the way of profits.”

  • ECONOMIST bosses’ magazine after Seattle

Protests spread east and west

ONE OF the myths pushed by the media and governments is that the anti-capitalist demonstrations have only taken place in rich Northern countries. In fact there have been protests East and West, North and South. In October some 20,000 South Koreans protested against government and business leaders in trade talks at the Asia-Europe summit (ASEM) in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

Most were workers from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. Up to 30,000 security forces, armed with riot shields and batons, and backed up by helicopters and armoured riot vehicles, surrounded the conference centre. But with fists in the air thousands of workers chanted, “We oppose neo-liberalism,” and, “No globalisation,” and demanded that workers’ hours were shortened.

“Globalisation is a main cause of worsening labour conditions,” protesters said. “ASEM, which was established to overcome American supremacy, has been following in US footsteps only for the sake of capitalistic gains, destroying the lives of labourers and people in Third World countries.” In August police killed four people taking part in a demonstration against the World Bank in the city of Hyderabad in India.

The anti-capitalist movement is much more than a series of protests. It is connected to a wider struggle against the effects of IMF and World Bank policies around the world. This year-from Bolivia to South Africa, from Ecuador to Zambia-workers, peasants, students and the poor have fought back against privatisation, and welfare and job cuts imposed by the IMF.

General strike grips Argentina

Workers brought Argentina to a halt last week in a 36-hour general strike against an IMF austerity package. The IMF is demanding the Argentine government push through savage spending cuts in the next 30 days in return for emergency loans.

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