By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
But the focus on internationalism is not without precedent. The American left, bereft of a significant working-class movement, has frequently focused its efforts on international solidarity. If American workers can’t be saved from themselves, then at least the unfortunate abroad can be supported -- be they South Africans, Salvadorans or Sudanese slaves. Now, with the collapse of the Cold War, after seeing the concrete domestic effects of globalization, and, most certainly, with the advent in 1994 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we seem to have entered a new era in protest politics. With the world being forcefully but unequally unified instead of polarized, it all of a sudden becomes a lot easier to link domestic, even neighborhood, problems with broad international issues.
The experience of NAFTA taught that one simple free-trade treaty could simultaneously lead to the factory down the street closing and 15 new across-the-border sweatshops opening up. Add to this the slow but dramatic reawakening of the American labor movement under AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, and you have the ingredients for what is now emerging as the most important and exciting social movement since the 1960s. So here we are in postindustrial America, and the wonky conundrums of trade policy and responsibility in the new global economy have fired the imagination of the most politically committed young people, just as civil rights and the Vietnam War did for many of their parents. And as during Vietnam, activists are further inspired by the formidable resistance they meet from the two established political parties, both of which maintain identical free-trade policies. In this new movement, then, reside the seeds for a major political realignment, a transcending of the traditional liberal-conservative, Democratic-Republican paradigm, and a new understanding that perhaps the most significant division in American politics is between corporatists and populists.
Coming politically of age at the same time as this tectonic shift, Juliette Beck wasn‘t surprised to find success in her efforts. For a half-year prior to the Seattle demonstrations, she had been a full-time California organizer for Seattle 99, and she knew her message was resonating. Underneath the rosy economic reports there was a gnawing uncertainty among both the young and the not-so-young about downsizing, layoffs and jobs with little future. It wasn’t so much the WTO itself. After all, just who had even heard of it? But the WTO emerged as an iconic lightning rod, galvanizing a decade‘s worth of pent-up discontent and anxiety about ”globalization“: unionists worried about the export of jobs, environmentalists worked up over global warming and endangered species, human-rights activists angry over prison labor in China, students politicized over their universities’ jobbing out T-shirt and gym-tog orders to Third World sweatshops, or angry because Starbucks rips off impoverished coffee growers in Honduras.
On college campuses across the country, in union meeting halls, in street-front organizing offices, the catchwords are still ricocheting: ”Fair Trade Not Free Trade,“ ”Stop the Race to the Bottom,“ ”Rewrite the Rules of the Global Economy.“ These notions are fueling outfits like Global Exchange, human-rights groups, enviros, labor activists, student networks and various Seattle veterans such as the anarchist Direct Action Network as they click out e-mails, and post Web pages, and print leaflets, and phone-bank, and prepare caravans, and recruit on college campuses to make sure A16 explodes into the headlines. ”The WTO, the IMF, the World Bank are all architects of an unaccountable and undemocratic global economy,“ Beck says as she leaves her office en route to the Art and Revolution workshops. ”We want them dismantled and replaced by democratic institutions that can make life better for people. We reject corporate globalization in favor of more people-friendly economies.“
Beck backs up her arguments with a stream of facts and figures demonstrating how the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank create more poverty rather than less. But she is also quick to distance herself from the isolationist strand of anti-globalism that binds together, say, the Buchanan brigades. ”We are internationalists to the core,“ she says. ”We don‘t reject a global community. We just want it to be fair.“
The hangar-size warehouse known as Cellspace, in a grimy back street of San Francisco, is the stuff of nightmares for suburban parents. This is a collective living space--cum--gallery--cum--artisans’ workshop peopled with the cultural fringe of America‘s most fringe city. On its floor, a collection of about 40 young people has gathered for the weekend workshop organized by Art and Revolution. Don’t even think about showing up here unless you have at least a tongue stud and a pierced lower lip. Indeed, Juliette Beck -- in her woven Indian-style jacket adorned with two protest buttons, her pajamalike black slacks and her baseball cap that reads ”Unite!“ -- is about the most conservative-looking person here.
The kids, meanwhile, sit attentively on the floor as two ”facilitators,“ Alli and Malakai, run down a postmodern political rant that ”connects the dots“ between a variety of issues ranging from California ballot propositions, to the Chevron corporation, to Starbucks, to the WTO and the World Bank. During a so-called ”free-write“ exercise, these young people are asked to jot down whatever comes to mind as they ponder the effects of ballot Proposition 21, the Juvenile Justice Initiative that will pass a few weeks later in the California primary.
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