From Protest To Politics | The Nation


From Protest To Politics

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No Blueprints, Please: Just 'Deglobalization'

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Marc Cooper
Marc Cooper, a Nation contributing editor, is an associate professor of professional practice and director of...

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At the biggest Democratic event of the campaign season, Obama argued that the coming election is a choice between the past and the future rather than a referendum on his first two years in office.

He'll probably fend off J.D. Hayworth, but in order to win he's lost most of his principles.

Perhaps Professor Chomsky, understandably, got a bit carried away on the high emotional tide. Fortunately, no manifestoes, marching orders or instant recipes for a New Society issued forth from the WSF. Instead, the focus was on what Emilio Taddei of the Buenos Aires-based Latin American Council on Social Sciences said were the five main areas of concern facing the movement: "Strategies to confront international financial agencies, imposing controls on international capital, the relationship between politics and civil society, the tactics of protest and international solidarity." From the week of reflection and debate a consensus seemed to emerge as to how and where to move the fight forward after the setback of September 11:

§ Redefine the Movement. There was general agreement that the time had come to reposition the movement in affirmative terms--moving from a stance of exposing and protesting to proposing alternatives and solutions. "We are labeled as anti, anti, anti," said Public Citizen's Lori Wallach. "We need to change that perception. It's they who are anti. We are a movement for democracy. For equity. For the environment. For health. They are for a failed status quo." She joked, "You can see I've got who we are down to about fifty words. Now we've got to get it down to bumper-sticker size."

There was also recognition that after the bloody confrontations in Genoa, and certainly after the World Trade Center attacks, the movement could no longer afford any ambiguity about its stance on violence. "Too often we get dragged into a swamp debating what is euphemistically called 'diversity of tactics,'" said one European environmentalist. "Now we need to speak up and say clearly that violence, as a political tactic, just doesn't work either in the United States or in Europe."

§ Escalate the Fight Against the World Trade Organization: "Shrink It or Sink It." There was wide agreement that the ministerial meeting of the WTO last fall in Qatar was a clear setback for the poorer countries of the global South, notwithstanding some rhetorical genuflections toward issues of equity by the richer countries. "We have to strip the image of the WTO," said Martin Khor, founder of the Third World Network. "And given that the WTO is becoming the most powerful multilateral organization in the world, there's an added urgency to the task." The still-tenuous new trade round launched at the Qatar meeting aims to expand WTO authority radically into even more areas of global commerce and culture. At a minimum, the WTO and its power have to shrink.

One key part of this fight, Khor argued, is for the movement to make clear that the WTO isn't unfair just because it is for free trade. "It's not that simple," he said. "The WTO is about free trade and protectionism at the same time. It's about a double standard that continues to protect rich countries against products that poor countries are good at exporting." Tackling the WTO, argued Canadian Tony Clark of the Polaris Institute, means campaigns ranging from what he called "reformist" strategies of suing multinationals and imposing codes of conduct on them to "radical strategies that question the right of existence of corporations."

§ Block the Free Trade Area of the Americas. At least in the Western Hemisphere, the frontlines of the fight will be against the White House push to approve the thirty-four-country FTAA--a proposal that its critics call "NAFTA on Steroids." "The FTAA is no less than a coup de grâce to Latin America's development and environmental protection," said economist Miosotis Rivas Peña of the Dominican Republic. There's crackling energy around this issue, and it sparked during the forum. "We will fight [the FTAA] every possible way, and we will defeat it," vowed Luiz Ignacio "Lula" Da Silva, Brazil's most important opposition politician. As head of the left-of-center Workers Party, which already governs large parts of Brazil, "Lula" is currently topping the polls in this fall's presidential election. The FTAA "isn't really a free-trade pact," Lula said. "Rather, it's a policy of annexation of Latin America by the United States."

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