By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
To that end, many in the coalition preparing for Ottawa have endorsed a list of four concrete demands, representing a kind of minimal consensus among the scores of opposition groups. They include:
• Open all World Bank and IMF meetings to the media and the public.
• Cancel all debt from impoverished countries to the World Bank and the IMF, using the institutions’ own resources.
• End all World Bank and IMF policies that hinder people‘s access to food, clean water, shelter, health care, education and the right to organize. (Such ”structural adjustment“ policies include user fees, privatization and austerity programs.)
• Stop all World Bank support for socially and environmentally destructive projects such as oil, gas and mining activities, and for projects, such as dams, that require forced relocation of people.
Even if the critique of globalization is still in flux, advocates say it’s been confirmed by recent events. One of the basic alternative principles, Steven Staples points out, is a return to the notion of the ”commons.“ Critics argue there should be limits on the free market -- that basic services such as drinking water, seed stocks or even genetic material itself should remain the property of a people or a municipality, not an opportunity for profit-taking by transnational corporations.
Steven Staples cites the anthrax threat as a case in point. Like the U.S., Canada experienced a mad run on the popular antibiotic Cipro. The manufacturer, Bayer Canada, said it didn‘t have enough of it. This put the Canadian government in a bad spot because, as vigorous defenders of biotech patent rights, Canada had previously told governments in South Africa and Brazil they had no right making ”illegal“ generic copies of AIDS drugs that could save millions of lives. Now, faced with the same dilemma -- patent protections directly interfering with the public health -- Canada did exactly as South Africa and Brazil did, placing a gigantic order with a generic drug maker. Bayer raised a commotion, but averted a showdown over patents when it somehow came up with a new batch of pills at a drastically reduced price.
For Staples, this episode puts the emphasis back on public services -- common services -- as a matter of security.
”Governments matter again. Borders matter again,“ he says. ”Making people feel secure again requires public services. They suddenly have to rely on public-health and -safety officials, environmental agencies, immigration services, and all manner of government regulatory bodies. These are agencies that are under constant attack by economic globalizers, who see them as a hindrance to the market. But the market simply does not provide these services.
Globalization’s critics also are thinking hard about tactics. Increasingly militant street demonstrations came to a head this year in Genoa, Italy, where as many as 300,000 activists jammed the streets, and a violent police response left one protester dead and hundreds of marchers and organizers hospitalized.
“After the militancy of Genoa, a lot of people were disappointed we didn‘t get a chance to take on the IMF and the World Bank in D.C.,” says Han Shan, program director with the Berkeley-based Ruckus Society, which holds camps where activists learn everything from running media campaigns to lockdown techniques. “We wanted the chance to show how peaceful and pointed our critique could be.”
The Ruckus Society canceled a training camp that was scheduled for the week following September 11. “They would have shown our camp right next to footage of other kinds of training camps” -- meaning terrorist camps -- “and that wouldn’t have looked too good.”
Steve Staples of the Council of Canadians is also reviewing strategy. “People think activists are cold tacticians, but they were traumatized by September 11 like everyone else,” he says. “We had tremendous momentum building up to September 11 -- bigger demos, better political space in which to be heard. That space is still pretty good. People are bruised right now. We stand by our analysis, but we‘ve been really accentuating the need for nonviolent action.”
The question was, and still is, how can tens of thousands of protesters bring their message to decision makers barricaded behind high walls and phalanxes of police? The actions planned around the IMF and World Bank meetings in Washington, D.C., were canceled out of respect and, frankly, fear for public safety. But now activists feel that the urgent need to connect anti-globalization issues to the war on terrorism is forcing them into the streets, appearances -- and risk of misinterpretation -- be damned.
“We grieved over the events of September 11. We thought it was a terrible, abominable act,” says Paul Smith, a volunteer with Global Democracy Ottawa. “But the grieving is over now. It’s time for us to get back to work changing the world so this won‘t happen again.”
“The march on November 17 in Ottawa is billed as a ’Peace and Justice‘ march,” says Pam Foster, coordinator of the Halifax Summit, which was set up to oppose the 1995 Halifax meeting of the Group of Seven industrial nations. “It’s universally understood that violence won‘t be tolerated, but all bets are off once people are in the streets, since the definition of ’violence‘ is still an ongoing debate.”