Several Kinds of Global Warming

Jay Moore research at
Thu May 11 07:56:41 MDT 2000

Global warming
By Faiza Rady
Al-Ahram [Cairo]
May 4-10, 2000

On this first Labour Day of the third millennium, anti-capitalist and
anti-globalisation themes featured prominently on the agenda of May Day
marches across the globe.

Socialist Cuba witnessed the largest May Day rally. Millions of people
turned out for May Day celebrations throughout the island, denouncing
American imperialism and the American trade embargo and demanding that
six-year-old Elian Gonzalez be brought back home.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who participated in the three kilometre march
from Havana's sprawling Plaza of the Revolution to the US Interests Section,
was cheered by hundreds of thousands of workers. Addressing the rally,
Castro related Elian's case to the Clinton administration's criticism of the
island's human rights record. "I wonder what the US government would have
done if a similar situation had been created with a barely six-year-old
American child kidnapped in Cuba and subjected to the appalling treatment
the child has received in that country," Castro told the cheering crowd.

In the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, an estimated 20,000 workers also took to
the streets to denounce the government's plan to adopt the US dollar as
Ecuador's official new currency. The marchers strongly opposed the
neo-liberal policies of globalisation and impoverishment affecting an
estimated seven million Ecuadorians living below the poverty line. "This
march is a very important warning to the government," said Faust Dutan, a
leader of the umbrella organisation that organised the marches, the
Patriotic Front.

A similar warning was echoed in South Africa, where leaders of the
1.8-million-strong confederation of South African trade unions (COSATU)
addressed a rally of 10,000 workers in Johannesburg. Calling for a general
strike on 10 May, COSATU spokesman Siphiwe Mgcina said that the government's
privatisation drive had resulted in half a million job losses since 1994,
while further privatisation plans would eliminate tens of thousands of jobs
in the immediate future.

While the South witnessed more traditional union-led May Day demonstrations
protesting neo-liberal policies, it was in the North that anti-capitalist
slogans reverberated the loudest. Rioting broke out in London, where a crowd
of anti-capitalist protesters clashed with the police as they destroyed the
golden arches of McDonald's in central London. The protesters broke into the
restaurant and distributed food to the marchers. In a dramatic expression of
their political affiliation, the demonstrators spray-painted a statue of
Winston Churchill with a hammer and sickle, the emblems of international

Another group of colourful protesters, the "guerrilla gardeners",
demonstrated against global capitalism by digging up impromptu gardens and
distributing wild seeds. "Armed with trowels, seeds and vision, the idea is
to garden everywhere. Anywhere. It is a step away from the grip of
capitalism," announced one "revolutionary" gardener.

While riots were erupting in London, a march against "capitalism and
imperialism" rocked the working class neighbourhood of Kreuzberg, Berlin.
Ten thousand demonstrators battled the police, who used tear gas and
nightsticks against the crowd of anarchists. The protesters denounced
capitalism as the cause of global bankruptcy, which has pushed one third of
the world's labour force -- representing a staggering one billion workers --
into unemployment or underemployment and conditions of abject poverty.

Marked by a clear-cut, anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation position, this
year's May Day demonstrations differ because they are part of a growing
global protest trend. In the aftermath of last December's anti-globalisation
demonstrations in Seattle -- which were instrumental in closing down the
powerful Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) --
protest rallies are being regularly and consistently organised by nascent
worldwide resistance movements.

Blasting the ruling global corporate establishment, and the neo-liberal
policies of its loan institutions -- the World Bank (WB) and the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) -- the emerging movement has adopted a
radical anti-capitalist platform.

Emerging out of an alliance of trade unions, NGOs, left-wing political
activists, church and community groups and environmental organisations, the
new activists have moved from struggling for one-dimensional local issues to
a more comprehensive internationalist agenda.

A case in point is the remarkable radicalisation of liberal groups, like the
environmentalists. In the US, for example, environmentalist groups
affiliated with Network for Global Economic Justice (NGEJ) -- an umbrella
group opposing globalisation -- denounce WB/IMF policies as engendering
global poverty and unemployment and causing irreversible environmental
damage worldwide.

The NGEJ accuses the international loan agencies of being the driving force
behind massive deforestation in the South and claims that the agencies are
pushing governments to clear forests as "cash crops" in order to raise money
for staggering interest payments on the WB loans. One example is Benin,
whose exports of sawn wood have increased four-fold between 1992 and 1998.
In Guyana, transnationals have acquired logging rights to more than half of
country's forests. Meanwhile, deforestation has accelerated in other African
countries like Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

Beyond providing fast and easy cash crops to replenish the bank's coffers,
deforestation also contributes to global warming and climatic changes.
Scientists see a correlation between these changes and the recent upsurge of
natural disasters like the notorious El Niño and the recent spate of killer
hurricanes that continue to devastate entire regions across the globe. Added
to the hurricane and storm disaster list, deforestation can also lead to
other forms of "natural" catastrophes.

Thousands of deaths in Central America resulting from the havoc wreaked on
the continent by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 were directly attributable to mud
slides on deforested slopes. Such evidence, however, hardly moved the
international loan agencies. "Despite such consequences," declared one NGEJ
official, the World Bank and IMF exclude local people from the economic
decisions by which they live and sometimes die."

Other militant environmentalists, like the Guerrilla Gardeners and the May
Day 2000 International Solidarity and Resistance Campaign -- a coalition of
London-based anarchists -- have also rejected capitalism in no uncertain
terms. In the words of the May Day 2000 manifesto: "Through May Day 2000
ordinary people are daring to contemplate alternatives to capitalism and act
upon them, in recognition that the capitalist system, based on the
exploitation of people, societies and the environment for the profit of a
few, is the prime cause of our social and ecological troubles."

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