To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence. - Sun Tzu

Friday, November 11, 2005

Record of the War to Date: A Primer on Global Resistance to Globalization

In 1945, the World Bank was formed to rebuild Europe. In 1948, the GATT was created, and in 1995 it became the World Trade Organization. On January first, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect. Later that day, the EZLN seized five cities in Chiapas, launching the most effective resistance to free trade yet- but they were not the first or the last. The alter-globalization struggle, though it exists as a low-key distraction to Americans (barely making it to the edge of our consciousness, thanks to a corporation-controlled media), has killed thousands, cost billions of dollars, and changed millions of lives. It is more a war of ideas than of violence, but that is not to say there hasn't been any.

Though there have been many anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism struggles, the modern phase became most pronounced in the 1980's, when Russia no longer had the strength to support international Communism. This freed up Capitalism (in the form of the IMF and World Bank) to be more overt and direct, take on more projects, and to make lots of money- which is, of course, the goal.

-The question of who is making money, and how they are making it, is central to understanding the conflict. The modus operandi involves the IMF and World Bank recommending to a poverty-stricken country a building project, characteristically a dam, which will ostensibly provide electricity and water: This will supposedly attract more foreign investment, which will provide employment and save the populace. (IMF)

In reality, it doesn't work that well. In order to fund these projects, the World Bank provides a very large, multi-billion dollar loan to the country. Conditions are attached for if the country should be unable to pay; usually, these involve privatization of public works and resources, lessening worker rights, pay, and health care ("Structural Adjustment Programs", SAPs), and liberalizing markets (reduction or elimination of tariffs, opening of markets to foreign goods).

These countries then need to hire foreign firms, such as Bechtels and Halliburtons subsidiaries, in order to do the actual construction- So this money is not reinvested back into the country's economy, which would be a double boon. Instead, it enriches first-world corporations (and their shareholders) at the cost of first-world taxpayers (you and me). The 'beneficiary' country is, however, stuck with the burden of paying the debt (plus interest) for their multi-billion dollar loan. The decision to take on a development loan is often motivated by large bribes to the country's leaders.

So, one way or another, this country now has a large, modern facility, ready to begin producing for the economy. Unfortunately, the amount of the loan was based on unrealistic, overly-optimistic benefit projections. Whether the project was even needed is glossed over. And when the promised results fail to be delivered, the country must still pay the debt and interest. Obviously, this is impossible. Now the conditions kick in. (Confessions…) This is the part where the people are most directly affected; Austerity programs are extremely unpopular. By now, the damage is mostly already done, but SAPs, also called Austerity Programs, motivate the victims.

-The other major form of corporate globalization is Free Trade. The idea behind Free Trade is that that commerce enriches everyone involved- If a company from a rich country builds a factory or mine in a poor country, then the people of that country get jobs, the people in the rich country get cheaper goods, and the corporation can take some off the top and make a higher profit.

Of course, that's only half the story. The "Free" part refers to tariff and worker rights reduction or elimination. Free Trade agreements, like NAFTA and CAFTA, have provisions that allow a corporation to sue a country that upholds worker and environmental rights for "lost profit". (“Nafta”) In addition to the obvious negatives, this also perpetuates such things as unfair land distribution in Latin America. But the countries in question are largely controlled by corrupt, pro-American ruling classes who have no concern for the well-being of those unlucky enough not to be born rich.

Once they see the physical results of IMF/World Bank-funded projects and Free Trade, the People often fight back, usually by attempting to overthrow the government responsible and elect or install a new, leftist, socialist popular government. Either that, or the government, with the support of first-world countries, cracks down on protesters.

-The textbook example of this process is Bolivia. In March 1985, a general strike was called in response to SAP-imposed price increases (the result of World Bank loans). Rioting occurred. Negotiation resulted in an increase in wages. More rioting occurred in 2000 when rural farmers demonstrating in La Paz are repressed by police and the military, killing 10. In 2001, the World Bank suggested to the Bolivian government that water supplies in Cochabamba, Bolivia's third-largest city, be privatized (by a Bechtel-led coalition of international corporations), resulting in the "Water War". (“Thirst”At least seven protesters were killed. Resulting public outcry compelled the government to shelve water privatization. Ongoing disagreements over globalization have led to a call for elections two years early, in December 2005. (“Bolivia”) Curiously, the US government has put in a bid for 3,700 sets of riot gear "pursuant to an agreement with the Department of State" (Contract), and has moved at least 500 troops to a base near Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay, near the Bolivian border; specifically, near a resource-rich area of Bolivia. (“Washington secures…”) Whether the intention of the US government is to intervene in the election is anyone's guess, but not out of character.

-Another notable front line in the war of Globalization exists in Venezuela. In 1992, following years of disastrous Austerity Programs, Hugo Chavez led a coup attempt, with wide popular support, against the ruling oligarchy. It failed and he was jailed, but in 1999 he won the country's presidential race and used this power to open free clinics, schools, create a new Constitution, redistribute land, and give control of the country's vast oil resources (previously owned like a private corporation for the benefit of the oligarchy) to the government and the people. Fearing their loss of power, the oligarchy staged a veto coup in 2002 that briefly ousted Chavez, but, upon seeing that the people still wanted Chavez, loyal soldiers held a counter-coup and restored him. The oligarchy killed 18 people in the first day, and an unknown number died in ensuing riots and police repression. (“The Revolution Will Not be Televised”)

-In addition to seeing Chavez take control of Venezuela (not to mention anti-water-privatization riots that killed seven in Bolivia, a two day general strike in Paraguay, and anti-Austerity Measures demonstrations in Ecuador) (List), 1999 could be considered the first year the war came back to the US. Although there had been fairly large demonstrations in places such as Oregon and London in June, Seattle will likely always hold a special place in the hearts of alter-globalists (Alter-Globalization is the populist response to corporate globalization; the goal is not to eliminate international trade, but rather to make sure that it is done fairly and profitably for those for whom it is supposed to be profitable- namely, workers). There, for four days in November and December, anti-WTO rioting paralyzed the city, shut down the WTO meeting (“Seattle and WTO each assess damages”), and, most importantly, forced Americans to actually pay attention. As Tom Tomorrow put it, "In a few short days, the entire debate was altered, perhaps irrevocably." (This Modern World). If the moderately-successful indigenous resistance was phase 1, Seattle launched phase 2.

-In 2001, at the next major anti-globalization event, the G8 meeting in Genoa, Italy, protesters got their first martyr. Carlo Giuliani was shot on July 20 by Carabinieri (Italian paramilitary police) during a violent skirmish. The next day, protesters marched on the meeting, but were driven back by police.
Two years later, the WTO met in Cancun, Mexico, and were met with the people who had directly lost the most from NAFTA. The EZLN responded to NAFTA most poignantly, but the rest of Mexico was also affected with higher poverty rates and social and environmental degradation, so thousands of workers and farmers came and battled police for several days. Lee Kyung-Hae, a South Korean, charged a police line and shouted, "WTO kills farmers!", and then slashed himself to death. (Source, Wikipedia)

Seattle’s and Miami’s (in 2003) protests were likely the high point of semi-violent anti-Free Trade/corporate globalization action in the United States for a while, because of 9/11. In the long run, nothing changed that day. It was another event in the long struggle; in this case, either anti-globalization militants (if the US government and incestuous American corporate-controlled media can be believed) destroyed the symbolic center of World Trade, or the fascist American government killed three thousand of its own citizens and spread the lie that it was terrorists in order to enjoy the subsequent three years of near-dictatorial control, free of measurable dissent. It took until 2003 for any significant opposition to the administration to regain a voice, and, even then, it failed to prevent the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2005. There were a few local anti-Globalization actions in various third-world countries, but little noteworthy. After the great gains of the 1990’s, the first half of the first decade of the new millennium saw victory after victory for the corporations, in the form of supposedly pro-market (anti-regulation) changes by the now-totally-Republican-controlled US government.

-The lack of direct opposition and disruption nearly changed starting on July 6th in 2005 in Scotland. The G8 held its annual meeting in Edinburgh this year, and so fools such as Bob Geldof and Bono threw a rock concert and pleaded with the corporatist world leaders to forgive some debt for Africa. Meanwhile, thousands of alter-globalists, anarchists, pacifists, and other humanists blocked up Edinburgh and prepared to march on the Gleneagles estate where the G8 conference would be held. The Gleneagles is an old Scottish mansion where the bourgeoisie often visit, stay, golf, hobnob, and decide the fate of the world. It is surrounded by miles of mostly open field, making it very difficult to defend, especially against the one million people expected. It was ringed by concentric fences and thousands of police and military personnel.

On the first day of the protest, the day before the conference even started, tens of thousands of marchers arrived at the outer walls of the fortress. The outermost fence was rapidly breached, and thousands of the more impetuous people moved in. Because of the length of the fence, they were not immediately opposed by police, and many made it across the field to the next fence. Around three hundred people made it into the middle circle before they were surrounded by police and driven out. And that was just the first day, with only a few thousand protestors! It does not take much imagination to conceive what would have happened in the following days, had things gone according to schedule. (Various …)

Needless to say, they did not go according to schedule. On July 7th, simultaneous transit system bombings in London stopped the G8 conference. The protestors were blockaded in their encampment by police. There is still debate as to who actually carried out the attacks- terrorists or the MI5. (“Attack on London…”)

-That is the situation today- Disorganized righteous hope on one side, and wealthy, well-connected control on the other. Globalization and alter-globalization duel for public opinion with victories and defeats (characterized by both local, small-scale violence and political action) on both sides. Today, the corporatists are in control, but alter-globalists are gaining momentum. Which will win depends on how adept the alter-globalists are at getting the truth out versus the ability of the corporatists to confuse and trick the masses.

IMF (International Monetary Fund)

Confessions of an Economic Hitman. John Perkins. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 2004.

“Nafta” Roedy Green. Canadian Mind Products. October 17, 2005.

“Thirst” produced by Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman. PBS. First shown July 13, 2004.

“Bolivia” Wikipedia.

DoD Contract 2D05%2DQ%2D0012/Combine%20Synopsis%5FSolicitation.html
Story at NarcoSphere

“Washington Secures Long-Sought Hemispheric Outpost” Information Clearing House. July 7 2005.

“The Revolution Will Not be Televised” Kim Bartley and Donnacha O’Briain. 2003.

“Seattle and WTO each assess damages” CNN. December 4, 1999.

"This Modern World" Tom Tomorrow. Dec 20, 1999.

“Carlo Giuliani” Wikipedia.

“Lee Kyung Hae” Wikipedia.

Various sources, heard live on radio and seen on Indymedia subsidiaries for Edinburgh G8

“Attack On London: Blair Plays The Terror Card” Paul Joseph Watson. Prison Planet. July 7, 2005.


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