Below are two articles that i wrote in connection with the ICC protests.
Why We Are Radical
The Rocky Mountain News published an article entitled, "Police fear WTO-like violence at rally" (see link). This is my response, which was refused by the News.
Why We Are Radical
This Monday morning the International Chamber of Commerce will ponder the topic, "(p)overty, lack of opportunity, hopelessness, and alienation are breeding grounds for violence and resentment. As numbers rise of unemployed, disenfranchised and radicalized youth, does business have special responsibilities in alleviating these problems?" Good question. Another question is, why are the numbers rising?
If the ICC were serious about solutions they would invite, consult with, and act on concerns of the students, the young workers, and the unemployed who will be in Denver streets this week. Alas, ICC delegates will ignore the protests while benefiting from a million taxpayer dollars spent to provide sanctuary behind concrete barriers, police phalanx, and threat of tear-gas at the barricades.
I'm not a youth, I'm a factory worker. I don't speak for the movement against globalization, but I created the posters which have apparently conjured the image of violence in the minds of the Denver police (News, May 3, page 4). What the News described accurately as "gritty pictures of crying and bleeding demonstrators and police wearing riot gear" shows what may be violence by protesters against property (the burning WTO sign), and non-violent protesters sitting, kneeling, huddling under a point-blank tear-gas barrage by police.
The public can easily explore extensive online discussion within the movement about the Seattle violence, including soul-searching and self-criticism. But the protesters pictured were guilty only of civil disobedience. Like that daring individual who stopped a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square, these folks used their bodies to hinder a column of delegates to a convention representing something which they abhor. They paid for their transgression in anguish and blood.
I don't like any kind of violence. I am shocked and horrified by recent attacks against innocent citizens in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska in the name of some confused and bizarre agenda. But I am also deeply troubled by a silent assault against the economic security of workers for the sake of profits. If our house is burned or our car is stolen, we consider it a crime. It is an attack on our lifestyle, and perhaps on our prosperity. Foreclosure and repossession inflict the same damage to our lives, but when they result from the will of the corporation, we are told we must acquiesce.
Consider a workmate whom I'll call Anna Lee. Tears streaked her cheeks as she embraced fellow workers for the last time. In the final moments of her layoff she shared phone numbers with friends. Then an honor guard of co-workers, stewards, a supervisor and security saw her out the lobby exit. She turned for a last glance, fought momentarily with her grief, and then she was gone.
Last Friday Anna Lee's predicament was shared by more than fifty of us who work in a Westminster factory. It will be repeated again at our location with another fifty, and another. Four hundred and thirty-one workers, some with more than thirty years of service, will take that lonely walk over the coming weeks. A hundred or more temporary workers left two months earlier. Forty-five supervisors will be thrown out of jobs at a later time.
This is not a cutback due to downturn, for this high-tech contract manufacturer prospers when other companies outsource in a bad economy. Rather it is a sacrifice to something called neo-liberalism, the new god of a rapacious corporate culture. The sophisticated machinery once operated by these workers is already in use elsewhere in the company. Some of the jobs have gone to a nearby non-union facility, but many are destined for Mexico and Asia where wages are as low as the dirt floors of village huts. It is a story increasingly familiar to workers in both high-tech and low-tech manufacturing facilities throughout the nation and the industrialized world.
In Colorado, our friend Anna Lee may face an uncertain future. The jobs that are available don't pay well. Like twenty-two other states, Colorado Unemployment Insurance is graded an "F" in a study by the Economic Policy Institute, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the National Employment Law Project. While Anna Lee may be eligible for Cobra insurance, the premiums are out of the reach of most unemployed workers. If Anna Lee were a thirty year worker like some of us expecting to be jobless in coming weeks, she would be challenged to find a new career in the twilight of her working years.
These facts catch our attention, but there are worse effects from neo-liberalism. Organizations such as the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund facilitate the exploitation of third world laborers in a world-wide search for the lowest wage. An increased cost of living in third world countries forces farmers, craftsmen, women and children into sweatshops and factories, frequently against their will. They labor under dangerous working conditions with few controls on the pollution of rivers or other environmental destruction.
Crushing third world debt is but one indicator of gross inequities in neo-liberal trade relationships, yet uncooperative countries are (even now) faced with isolation, subversion, military coercion, and threat of a military coup. Increasingly, industrial nation-states facilitate corporate prerogatives. An Institute of Policy Studies website declares, "(t)he Seattle protestors expressed their anger at institutions like the WTO for elevating the interests of large corporations over everyone else. We analyzed just how powerful the world's biggest firms are and our findings are staggering." One of their findings: of the world's 100 largest economic entities, 51 are now corporations and 49 are countries.
If the young radicals that concern the ICC are among the eighty percent of us expected to be left out of capitalist ascension after globalization of trade, what is their future? Will jobs in an enron economy continue the downward spiral? At what point do we all feel the urge to rebel?
The ICC won't heed young radicals because it knows what they know--
it is the system that is the problem. The system that government officials,
investors and corporate leaders have helped to construct, to maintain,
and to defend, makes them fabulously wealthy at the expense of the rest
of the world.
Original posted at http://rockymountain.indymedia.org
Most of us begin this day believing that the media have grossly over-hyped the likelihood of violence. The driving conviction behind publicizing the ICC protest as a continuation of Seattle has been the belief that we should not give the business world a break. Yet comparisons with Seattle end when we consider the months of preparation that went into that event, and the very few weeks we have had to prepare in Denver. And hasn't the corporate media done their homework? This is finals week in the colleges. Some of our most ardent and dedicated activists won't even make it to the main event.
When the press interviewed me I predicted numbers of protestors in the range of a hundred. This is certainly pessimistic, for in all there were well over a hundred just attending workshops. But in Seattle they filled an auditorium with 3,000 before the event.
We play it down, play it down. They hype it up, hype it up.
So we puzzle over the corporate media's suggetions that this will be bigger than Seattle. Will they later knock down a strawman, concluding that the movement has fizzled? If so, they fall into their own trap. Right now the movement is planning bigger and better for events months into the future.
As they have predicted chaos and mayhem, the corporate media have focused upon us, the radicals. Stories swirl of busloads of anarchists arriving from out of state. There are no busloads of anarchists (unless they are counting the Suburban-- but no, that is from Denver).
While we have the attention, we seem to have no voice in the media. Numerous submissions of articles with our point of view have been ignored. They talk about us, and focus on the views of their junior partner, the AFL, which describes us as the "fringe".
We believe (most of us) that there will be no great commotion at the Denver barricades. We don't have the numbers, we don't have the planning, we don't have the alliance of organizations from the Seattle experience. The ICC is an appropriate bad actor, but without the high profile of the WTO.
We will have taunting, chanting, antics. We will see attempts to goad the impassive face of authority. But unlike Seattle, no one (to my knowledge) has uttered the words, "block delegates".
As we contemplate the silliness and rumor-mongoring of the corporate media, we draw strength from the fact that we do have a wonderful core of activism in Denver. We have been noticed, and our future is bright.
The workshops covered issues such as appropriate dress. Wear long pants, long sleaves. Running shoes are good, sandals are not good. Absolutely no contact lenses, leave them at home in case of tear gas.
Tear gas? In Denver? It seems almost unthinkable. And yet to some, it was unthinkable in Seattle. Here is an excerpt from the account of Anita Roddick, businesswoman and activist:
The police and the corporate media have their own agenda. The day shall reveal all. But while the ICC may be the WTO, we all believe that Denver is not Seattle.
So we take heart from the Seattle experience, even as we prepare for the day's events in Denver. Here is that lesson drawn by Anita Roddick:
See you at the barricades.
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