Notes

(Dated February 6, 2000, these notes were taken by an observer of the protest movement who had direct access to certain planning meetings and contacts who discussed other meetings. Despite being two years old, these notes, made available to the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, provide the clearest insider picture of the emerging anti-capitalist movement available.)

 

The Next Battle

 

Introduction

 

For the past five years an international network of activists, environmentalists, trade unions and anti-capitalists have organized days of "actions" against major institutions in global finance and trade.  They accomplish this using e-mails and websites rather than relying on the print media or the telephone.  In this way, they have achieved a new form of the "leaderless revolution" advocated during the 1960s by Carlos Marighella.  In fact, there is leadership; but it is more diffuse.  Most of the calls for the "international days of action" originate outside the United States, often appearing first in Europe.

 

April's World Bank meeting (2000)

 

Organizers are well advanced in their planning of direct action and civil disobedience protests in Washington during the period from Sunday, April 9 to Monday, April 17, 2000.  The target is the Spring Meeting of the World Bank group [International Bank for Reconstruction and Development [the World Bank], International Monetary Fund (IMF) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) [the soft-money window for loans to developing countries].  The World Bank group meetings will be held from April 13 to 17; but the teach-ins, rallies and protests will begin earlier in order to attract a larger number of participants.

 

The protest organizers are planning actions far beyond the World Bank group's April meeting and some already are calling for a "shut-down" of the Democratic and Republican national conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

 

Some of the organizations that spent some nine months of 1999 preparing for the Seattle protests on November 30 and December 1 against the World Trade Organization (WTO) are taking the lead in planning the April protests.  At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 11, 2000, about 62 activists met at the University of the District of Columbia, 4200 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., "to plan in earnest for a big mobilization around the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings." The organizers termed the protests "a logical follow-up to the WTO protests in Seattle."

 

Organizers who attended that Washington meeting have emphasized that the "energy level is high and people from a great array of organizations are coming together to make this happen." They intend that "an amazing event” will take place on Sunday, April 16, in Washington.  To the large number of faith-based organizations involved, the fact that April 16 is Palm Sunday provides the occasion for protests tinged with Christian religious symbolism.  The Washington organizers also have scheduled a major protest for April 17.

 

Those attending said that "report-back" meetings on Seattle had been held in many cities including Boston, Baltimore, Burlington [Vermont], Washington, Chicago, San Francisco and Winnipeg, Canada.  They indicated that enthusiasm was widespread for participation in another protest, perhaps one that is larger and more "creative" than Seattle.  Also, there is an effort to ensure that the IMF/World Bank protests have a larger international participation than those in Seattle.  Organizers stated that the word has gone out internationally over the internet, via web site postings and e-mail, to coordinate the arrival of activists 'from the countries most affected by IMF/World Bank policies," especially those from the "global South" - meaning the Third World or developing countries of Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region.

 

Organizers stress that many of the groups that were most active in organizing for the Seattle anti-WTO protests also are working towards organizing an event in Washington on April 16 to 17, and some were represented at the organizing meeting on January 11. The groups in "one or two” of these categories include: Direct Action Network (DAN), Global Exchange, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Art and Revolution, the Ruckus Society, Friends of the Earth (FoE), Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), Transnational Institute (TNI), International Forum on Globalization (IFG), Fifty Years Is Enough, Jubilee 2000 U.S.A. and Public Citizen Global Trade Watch (GTW).

 

There is no question that what is planned is a "shut down" of the IMF/World Bank function, for the term was used by a number of the groups represented.  However, at the present stage of planning, the major protests begin on April 9 with the "human chain" organized by Jubilee 2000, USA, to demand that the debts of Third World governments be forgiven.  The precise nature of the April 16 and 17, at the close of the Spring Meeting, remain unsettled.

 

From that organizers' meeting, it became clear that there are potential splits in the protest movement between those who want to abolish not only the WTO and World Bank, but the capitalist system, and those whose goal is to put pressure on the international trade and financial institutions so as to win for themselves a role [controlling or influencing] in policymaking.  However, those efforts to unify the various interest groups for the next protest event are moving ahead on several fronts.  For example, Ralph Nader's Global Trade Watch is promoting a "Fix It or Nix It" campaign to keep pressure on the WTO.  To use as one of its main issues China's effort to gain WTO entry, Nader is able to bring into his coalition protectionist sectors [some politically naive conservative groups, trade unions and manufacturing and agricultural groups], as well as human rights and pro-democracy organizations.  GTW director Lori Wallach's standing with the AFL-CIO was clear from the warm welcome accorded her as a featured speaker at the labor rally in Seattle on November 30.

 

Nader's campaign, however, raises the issues of other interests. The GTC campaign demands, among other things, the abolition of WTO trade-related intellectual property protections agreements; exclusion of water and "biological lifeforms" from WTO purview; and a return to total trade protectionism as an expression of "sovereignty."

 

However, Nader is not the only person seeking to form and keep a coalition of labor, environmental and activist organizations working together.  The Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment (ASJE), operating from P.O. Box 3536, Eureka, California 95592 [707/443-1783] and with the web site <www.asje.org > was created by the late radical environmentalist David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth (FoE) and the Earth Island Institute; and David Foster, director of District 11, United Steelworkers of America (USWA), who has a record as an articulate and tough spokesman for labor interests who is on the record as an opponent of the free market system, capitalism.  As Jeffrey St. Clair, a veteran associate of the radical Institute for Policy Studies said admiringly, the alliance is "a coalition of Earth First!ers and Steelworkers." Karen Picket, member of the ASJE Steering Committee, is a longtime Earth First! organizer, based in Berkeley, CA.

 

This coalition of labor and environmental organizations was unveiled early last October, and said its mission was "to fight rogue corporations and 'misguided' international trade pacts” such as the World Trade Organization.  The Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment brings together environmental heavyweights such as the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth with labor groups including the United Steelworkers of America, Teamsters and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters."

 

This alliance of radical environmentalists, associated with the advocacy and practice of sabotage, and the Steelworkers is based on self-interest: both have one common enemy: the Maxxam Corporation and its chief executive officer, Charles Hurwitz.  Once Hurwitz took over Pacific Lumber and Kaiser Aluminum, the companies began to press for maximum production to boost sales and profits to make back the high cost of the takeovers.  In the cases of these lumber companies, this meant cutting old-growth timber at a high rate, angering the environmentalists.  At the same time, cost-cutting measures and firings resulted in a company lockout of 3,000 USWA members at plants in Washington, Ohio and Louisiana.  USWA director Foster has explained, "the foe is more than Hurwitz. It's the kind of global capitalism that exploits both workers and the environment."

 

After Seattle, the ASJE joined with some twenty other groups in an effort to force the presidential candidates to take a stance on global trade.  During the run-up to the Iowa Caucus, the coalition created a weeklong series of protests and actions under the title "Raucous at the Caucus." One of the USWA participants, Don Kegley, said the Des Moines staffs of Al Gore and Bill Bradley were "cordial and engaging," that the Bush staff was "nervous and offered us home-baked cookies" while "Forbes' staff showed us the door." The alliance and the coalition continued their activity in New Hampshire, and its members are taking the lead plans to protest at the Democratic and Republican national conventions.  Michael Donnelly, a former Green Party candidate for Congress from Salem, Oregon, said, "We need to try to shut down both political conventions, since neither party seems ready to nominate a candidate who expresses any reservations about unfettered global trade."

 

 

Protest organizing structure

 

The Washington, D.C. organizing group agreed to meet next on Tuesday, January 25, at 7 p.m. in the same location at the University of the District of Columbia.  However, an East Coast blizzard that day caused the meeting to be postponed until Tuesday, February 1, in the same location.

 

The participants established eight working groups and established a schedule of initial meetings as follows:

 

"Media: Work.- developing press kit, identify target media, work on press lists, core group to talk to media, talk to TV bookers.  Avoid reinventing wheel by talking to those who did this in Seattle.  Identify issue experts and spokespeople on behalf of the organizing coalition.  Next Meeting: Monday, January 24 at 7 p.m., 2100 19th Street, NW, 4702.

 

Outreach: Work.- Lots of interest in local outreach and interest in other kinds of outreach to students, faith-based groups, labor, etc.  Next Meeting: Tuesday, January 18 at 7 p.m. Wilson High School, Room 113, Nebraska Avenue & Chesapeake Street (Tenleytown Metro stop).

 

Logistics: Work.- Arrange for nurses, doctors, water, port-a-potties, transportation (blocks of buses, picking up people at airport).  Blocks of rooms at cheap hotels, churches, campgrounds, volunteer for home stays.  Need to talk right away with people who handled this in Seattle.  Looking for workspace/office space. Next Meeting: Monday, January 17 at 7 p.m., 1640 Hobart Street, NW.

 

Fundraising: Work: Take existing letter from Seattle and adapt.  Find a 501(c)(3) to funnel money thru, with suggestion it could be Alliance for Global Justice.  In Seattle, lots of sponsoring organizations kicked in between $3K-$10K.  Set a minimum co-sponsorship contribution for the April 16-17 mobilization of US$1.00. Next Meeting: January 20 at 1 p.m. (lunch) at Zorba's Dupont Circle - 21" Street.

 

Training/Workshops: Good to do a Ruckus-type camp from April 1-8. Talked about puppets, props, etc. Next Meeting Thursday, January 13, 7 p.m., Xando on R & Connecticut, NW.

 

Communications: Work: Set up website for central info which would be for prep and during meeting.  Identify ways to communicate with Jubilee 2000, School of the Americas Watch, Earth Day, etc.  Establish listserv for local and national.  'Day of communications: cell phones, radios, etc.  Reliable calendar of events.  Next Meeting Tuesday, January 18, 7 p.m., Woodley Cafe across from Woodley Park Metro Station.

 

Propaganda/Message: Work.- Develop messages and write documents.  Do outreach to organizations (including in South) to develop message.  Work with Training, Media, etc. to get messages out.  Next Meeting Wednesday, January 19 at 6:00 p.m., at CIEL, 1367 Connecticut Avenue, #300.  South exit of Dupont.

 

Scenario/Action: Work: Week-long of buildup activities and trainings prior to April 16-17.  Set up in-kind committee to get donated materials (make this a subset of Fundraising).  Next Meeting: Wednesday, January 19, at Noon at Friends of the Earth, 1025 Vermont Avenue, NW, #300. McPherson Square Metro stop.

 

Legal Working Group: No one was present,- it will be formed later.

 

The organizers noted that for the time being, the Alliance for Global Justice and the 50 Years Is Enough Network had agreed to serve as central contact points for information on the spring mobilization.

 

50 Years Is Enough

 

Formed in 1994 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Bretton Woods conference that set up the World Bank Group, the 50 Years Is Enough Campaign (FYIEC) was launched by a coalition of more than 100 nongovernmental organizations (NGOS) and numerous international partners.  This coalition underlies the effective international campaign applying pressure for deep reforms, if not abolition, of the Bretton Woods organizations.  Most particularly, the FYIEC campaign is demanding the World Bank and its allied institutions immediately terminate their existing structural adjustment plans (SAPS) under which debt-ridden, inflation-financed, near-bankrupt governments are pressured to adopt strict accounting, cut government expenditures to a minimum and begin paying their debts to foreign lending institutions, The SAPs force governments to stop popular and populist programs such as providing below-cost foods and fuel through subsidies and to cut back on "free" services to the poor such as housing, health clinics and public education.  Instead, the FYIEC coalition says it wants the World Bank to implement "policies geared directly to the needs of the poor" or social welfare programs.

 

Ever since the October 1995 50th annual meeting of the World Bank Madrid was marked with large and violent protests in Bonn and other European cities The World Bank has been coming under heavy criticism from sectors on the right and the left over such issues as the burdens the SAPs place on the poor and the Bank's non-accountability for the billions of dollars wasted in fraud and misfeasance on projects in the Third World.

 

Then there are the demands of hardline Marxist groups who in emotional terms blast capitalist institutions as seeking to create a world of "landless laborers ripe for exploitation by the profit-hungry multinational corporations." The World Bank manages a relatively new loan organization as well, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), created in the mid-1990s.  The FYIEC coalition demands that the GEF be separated from the World Bank and separately incorporated in such a way as to institutionalize inputs from the NGOs and communities affected by development projects in GEF policymaking.

 

Playing an important coordinating role in organizing the anti-World Bank FYIEC coalition was a working group from the Institute for Policy Studies and its European affiliate, the Transnational Institute (TNI), led by John Cavanagh, which worked with economist Herman Daly, who left the bank in the early 1990s.  The basic argument of the IPS group was that the World Bank group and other international development agencies should shift their focus away from promoting Third World growth and concentrate on constraining any further growth of the economies of the developed nations.

 

During the spring of 1997, the Fifty Years Is Enough Network worked closely with IPS in presenting "The Progressive Agenda," a series of seminars and lectures by activists for Members of Congress on Capitol Hill.  The organization has close ties to Members of Congress and the FYIEC director, Njoki Njoroge Njehu, a native of Kenya, in April 1999 testified before the House International Relations Committee in support of Debt Relief for Africa in a hearing of the same name.  She told the committee that her coalition had grown to more than 200 members and that she also was an elected member of the Executive Committee and Steering Committee of Jubilee 2000/USA.

 

A year of protest

 

Organizers of the anti-IMF/World Bank protests in April see their effort as part of a global campaign against the market economy and free trade that already is issuing alerts, mainly via the internet, to promote large-scale protests to disrupt major international meetings or commemorate radical dates.  These calls usually are not issued from the United States.  The call to disrupt the 30th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 29, 2000, was issued in Germany on December 17 and called the gathering "a meeting of murderers." These upcoming protests include:

 

May Day 2K: Activists propose to "shut down' Wall Street on May 1 as part of the international May Day 2K demonstrations.  In England, anti-globalist activists are planning another "anti-capitalist carnival" or "grassroots empowerment against capitalism" in London for the period from Friday, April 28 through Monday, May 1, 2000, with other large actions in Manchester.  Protest coalitions have formed in the United States [Washington, Chicago, New Orleans and New York]; Canada [Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, Ottawa]; and Australia [Sydney].

 

Group of 8 Summit: Okinawa, Japan.

 

Republican and Democratic national conventions.  Targeted for "shut down” late this summer.

 

World Bank/IMF Annual Meeting: In Prague, Czechoslovakia, September 2000.

 

(end)

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