anti-capitalist mobilisations rock the wto summit
Seattle, November, 30th, 1999 (N30).
50,000 demonstrators on the streets. Disruption and delay of the 3rd meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Simultaneous actions are carried out in cities around the world. This massive Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Globilisation mobilisation in an American city was a heart warming spectacle.
These demonstrations contained a wide range of activists and militants from different struggles - hence its real strength. When we can start to organise ourselves across all boundaries - worker, unemployed, etc. we are getting closer to really combating the social system of capitalism.
Many protesters came well prepared for what was waiting, with gas masks, camouflaged faces, hard hats, hoods and gloves. This way they were more likely to survive the state surveillance and fight another day. The authorities had their police force out in massive numbers, backed up by the local National Guard. They had no hesitation in doing their job - putting the boot into whoever starts to question the way the world is run and who it is run for. Clinton and his Neo-Liberal pals werent about to have their capitalist top brass meeting ruined without putting up a fight.
The fact is that any real social movement against capitalism will be met by the full force of state repression - big states, little states and so-called workers states alike - its their job!
All states are about the imposition and defence of capitalism for the benefit of a tiny elite that essentially rules the world, forcing the vast majority of us to live in poverty, misery and boredom.
So when we take direct action; when we block off streets and stations during protests, when we occupy the factories and offices where we work and when we really control the estates and roads where we live. Thats when we start to sense the real power that we hold when we act collectively for our own interests. This is when we can glimpse a world organised for our own real social needs when we finally use that power.
The Violent Ruling Minority
Media and politicians condemn the violent minority of demonstrators in Seattle. But the whole system of capitalism has always been imposed and maintained through violence. That is the entire history of capitalism. The violence of war, work, poverty and starvation. The police and army are instruments of that violence. Nothing will ever change this without social revolution and that just aint gonna happen by us holding hands or sitting in the street - unfortunately!
Whos In Charge Here?
The ruling elite will always try to absorb and accommodate any rebellious social movements that start to challenge them directly. This is why they will attempt to mediate via representatives. The question Whos in charge here? is often asked by the cops at demonstrations that move outside of the ritualistic methods they prefer. This is about them attempting to understand and control social movements in terms of the organisation of capital and the state - as a hierarchy. Clintons bullshit about wanting to meet the demonstrators in Seattle was about this. By drawing out self-styled leaders and wanna-be representatives the authorities can start to relax and do business with these troublesome crowds. We should always refuse and resist these attempts.
Anarchy and Freedom
The main message of the demonstrations in Seattle seems to have been against the negative aspects of so-called free trade. But lets face it, all trade; free trade, markets, money, commodities, profit, wages, state, etc. are against us. Capitalism is the social system we live in, so what kind of social system do we desire when we attempt to organise ourselves against capitalism? Why fight for anything less than a world where we control every aspect of our lives. Where we decide what, how and when we produce and how we distribute it. To each according to their needs, from each according to their ability!
A major demonstration against racist asylum policy took place on Saturday 27 November at Campsfield House, Oxfordshire. The Close Campsfield Campaign are there every month, to their credit, but this Saturday marked the six anniversary of the opening of what is to all intents and purpose a prison, detaining around 200 refugees, many of whom have fled torture and threats of death (see August and October 1999 issues of Resistance).
One of the most depressing things about Campsfield is the length the Group 4 bastards who run it have gone to make it impossible for detainees and demonstrators to communicate with each other on such actions. The refugees were all locked in-doors so we couldnt call to them, and plate metal is attached to the perimeter fence so they cant see us or us them. But we are sure that the refugees must have been able to hear the racket made by several hundred angry people kicking and hammering on the fence (a noise which, conveniently, served to cover the sound of other imaginative forms of metal work being carried out!).
The demonstration took place in the context of initiatives to link the asylum issue with the issue of prisons more generally: challenging the way society deals with people it cant control or contain by taking away their freedom. This was expressed in chants heard at the Campsfield demonstration. In answer to the slogan Refugees are not criminals we were cheered to hear the reply Criminals are not criminals.
CAGE: email - CAGE@veggies.org.uk or c/o 188 Mansfield Rd., Nottingham, NG1 3HW
National Coalition of Campaigns Against Deportation:
firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.ncadc.demon.co.uk or 101 Villa Rd., Birmingham, B19 1NH
Close Campsfield Campaign: email: email@example.com
Find out more about Campsfield and about new similar detention centres at Oakington (Cambridgeshire) and Aldington (Kent) and next time someone whinges about refugees living the Life of Riley on their taxes, tell them how this democratic and free country treats people who come to it for help.
Greek anarchists were at the forefront of protests against US President Clintons visit to Athens as part of his 10 day European tour. As Clintons plane touched down in the almost completely evicted Athens airport, an estimated 10,000 protesters gathered on the citys central Syndagma Square before going on a rampage that left dozens of shops and banks in flames, including damage to the American Express office. Anarchists rioted in response to NATOs 78-day bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, whilst Greek politicians accused the extremists of taking cover behind the small but relatively disciplined communists, who had promised peaceful rallies!
The mass of protesters carried signs portraying Clinton as a murderer and Butcher of the Balkans. Walking slowly down the streets towards the US Embassy, they came face-to-face with the police and their tear gas. A group of anarchists, who had gathered at a nearby rally, joined the main demonstration and responded to the police use of tear gas by hurling firebombs, rocks and marine flares, smashing storefront windows and burning US flags. At least 40 people were arrested. The US president had to stay in a hotel on the edge of Athens because his Embassy was deemed too risky. Other highlights of the Clinton tour included talks towards admitting Turkey to the EU, and the Bulgarian capital Sofia being made into a high security zone, much to the annoyance of its residents. Ironically at the end of his trip, in Kosovo, Clinton tried to put forward a peace message against the victimisation of the remaining Serbians inside the region.
To the authorities, the ten week Commune of Paris in 1871 was a most dangerous experiment that could not be allowed to succeed. Following a disastrous war between France and Prussia which meant acute suffering, the ordinary people of Paris rose up against their state to build something better.
The spark which set Paris alight occurred when the Parisian militia in the working class districts resisted the armys attempt to steal their cannons. Then, spontaneously a bloodless insurrection spread throughout the city , with women playing a decisive role. Soldiers disobeyed their commanders and two unpopular generals were shot by the crowds consisting mainly of their own troops. The President of France scuttled out of Paris leaving the Hotel de Ville by the backstairs.
The experiment now began. The revolutionary character of the revolt was not in question. As one local committee declared, Every member of the vigilance committee declares himself to belong to the party of socialist revolution. Consequently he demands and seeks by all possible means the suppression of the privileges of the bourgeoisie, its downfall as a controlling caste, and the political advent of the workers. In short, social equality. No more bosses, no more proletariat, no more classes.
The people of Paris had an excellent and healthy mistrust of centralised authority. With government absent, the workers were in no mood to restore some workers dictatorship as Marxists have always demanded. On the contrary, revolutionary Paris erected a system of direct democracy based around the locality. All elected officials were subject to immediate removal by the voters and equally, they were paid workers wages as a disincentive to careerism. Power remained in the streets.
As the government counter attack took place the commune became increasingly radical. Schemes were drawn up to reform education and crucially, to expropriate the capitalists. The whole of Paris took part in an explosive debate on how to move forward. The church was attacked as a polluter of peoples minds, the guillotine was burned in a street party and monuments of oppression were destroyed.
HAIL OF BULLETS
The Commune greeted the capitalist enemy at the barricades. Street by street they fought the enemy but the Communards were no match for the heavily armed regular army. Despite a spirited defence, the Commune was drowned in blood. Twenty thousand Parisians were killed in battle and another ten thousand were executed, imprisoned or deported in the following weeks. The dream turned into a nightmare but the memory of the Commune live on.
Union bosses tried to end a wildcat strike and told 2,600 postal workers to get back to work. At a mass meeting the posties told them just where to go!
Initially 1,100 late and night shift workers at the Springburn Mail centre in Glasgow walked out on Wednesday 27th November. A further 1,500 at 22 delivery offices in the Glasgow area joined the wildcat the next day pissed off with the Communication Workers Union - backed pay deal for the Christmas period. The posties took direct action which infuriated management and union officials at local and national level. The entire mail system in the West of Scotland ground to a halt despite the best efforts of management.
Although, under pressure from the union, the posties returned to work on the Friday evening, the militancy of the wildcat bodes well for the future. Over on the East coast theres been no less than 21 wildcats by posties in the last four years, the latest being in October and covering Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife. What such exemplary action shows is that direct action works and that militancy outside the union is a real possibility.
Postscript: Its spreading. On Tuesday 30th November 750 production workers at Alexanders bus plant in Falkirk downed tools and walked out over management plans to ship work out. And what do you know, they didnt ask permission from the union bureaucrats! Meanwhile, 52 teachers at a Bonnyrig, Midlothian, High School resigned en masse from their union, the EIS, accusing it of failing to involve union members in decision making and of selling them out with a crap 3.6% pay deal in October. Is workers autonomy starting to develop? Watch this space!
The mini-riot viewers were treated to on TV overshadowed some of the days other anti-WTO activities in London. Commuters were spoken to, given leaflets and engaged in discussion to the disappointment of the violence- eager news crews and journo hacks.
By mid-day the Construction Safety Campaign were demonstrating outside the Canadian embassy in protest at Canadas attempts to get the WTO to reverse the ban some EU countries have placed on cancer-causing asbestos use. Later students targeted Citibank at their involvement in student loan debt. Nigerian exiles and other activists held a peoples court in Covent Garden, charging President Obasanjo of Nigeria and Mark Moody-Stuart of Royal-Dutch/Shell of human rights abuses and environmental devastation.
The evening rally was attended by nearly 2,000 people who danced to the Samba band before hearing speeches from Reclaim The Streets, the Zapatista support group, Genetic Engineering Network, Mumia Must Live! and others. It was following the speeches that the media-fest occurred.
About 200 people headed into the bus station area following a group of drummers who had broken away from the main group. Minutes later a line of cops who had gathered at the end of the street were charged and they responded with baton blows. In the course of events an empty police van was turned over and set ablaze. Skirmishes continued for several hours. By about 8.30 the police encircled about 200 demonstrators who they wouldnt release until taking details and photos.
The most questionable event of the evening was what exactly was an empty police van doing parked up beside the demonstrators when all other vehicles were kept out of the station. The van handily had a couple of scaffold poles on its roof rack and some snap happy police photographers with their lenses fixed on the van and the protesters around it. A provocation? Well let you decide on that one.
The same lesson needs repeating yet again: we must avoid getting drawn into stand offs with the cops which we have no chance of winning, under blanket surveillance and not on our own turf. Ritualistic confrontations with the old bill will only put our liberty and safety, and that of others at risk. Violence is an often necessary occurrence to defend our gains from attack. London N30 was not such an occasion.
US death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal has only one appeal left.
There has been a mass of activity around the world to support him, including a national demo in London last month. Events continue throughout Europe in December. The case is likely to return to the courts towards the end of February/beginning of March.
For the latest news contact: Mumia Must Live!, BM Haven, London, WC1N 3XX or www.callnetuk.com/home/mumia/
MORE WTO ACTIONS
Milan: Large number of anarchists joined a grass roots trade union demonstration (not connected to N30) leafleting workers about free trade and the WTO. Meanwhile the white coveralls group occupied McDonalds, locking themselves to the building and hanging banners.
Berlin: A parade was held throughout the day in Berlin projecting Jam the WTO on building walls as well as making music and mayhem.
Paris: 20,000 people attended Anti-WTO protest, focusing on the Tobin tax (a financial transaction tax which has operated for 18 months). Protesters supporting Mumia Abu-Jamal joined the demo. McDonalds and journalists were attacked by some of the protesters.
Padua, Italy: A peaceful demo in front of a GMO exibition Bionova attended by managers of GMO companies was attacked by the police.
UNITED IRISH BOSSES
As Irish republicans enter the government of Northern Ireland they have made a significant step closer to their goal - that of becoming the new ruling class in Ireland.
At Rennes in Western France 60 anarchist militants of the Federation Anarchiste, CNT and SCALP occupied the Franco-American institute (which will soon house a US consulate) demanding the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
ANARCHY IN RUSSIA
The Russian Confederation of Revolutionary Anarcho-Syndicalists have widely distributed the following leaflet :
Theyve taken us for idiots for far too long. Yeltsin and co theyre all part of one and the same gang - those who organised the terror in Moscow, at Volgodonsk - in Dagestan and Chechnia it is their conflict. It is their war. They need to consolidate their power. This is a war for petrol. Why must we let our children die for their interests? Let the oligarchy kill each other!
Dont believe in the nationalist delerium; a whole people cannot be accused of crimes, whose instigators are still unknown but which we see already profit the masters and leaders of all nations.
Dont take part in this war and dont let your children go down there!
Dont support the war!
Oppose it by every means!
Strike against the war and the war mongers!.
Please visit the regularly updated Anarchist Federation diary page for details of the latest events
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