FW: M.I.M. on the Quebec demo
bstoller at SPAMutopia2000.org
Mon Apr 23 21:06:06 MDT 2001
[NOTE. I have had my disagreements with the fire-&-brimstone positions
set down by M.I.M., but, on many occasions, their more prolonged
analyses merit attention. What follows, hot off the M.I.M. press, is one
of their better efforts, an in-depth radical perspective on the events
in Quebec over the weekend.]
M.I.M. (Maoist Internationaist Movement). 23 April 2001.
Middle class attacks the Summit of Americas: Dissatisfaction with
imperialism surfaces at Quebec City protests.
Quebec City, Quebec, CANADA Chanting "Who owns this summit? We do,"
tens of thousands of protesters packed Quebec City on a gloriously
sunny and clear day to protest the Free-Trade Area of the Americas
(FTAA) agreement signed in Quebec City. Rulers from 34 countries
including an average of 100 staff members each went to Quebec City to
talk, negotiate and hold ceremonies for a treaty previously worked out
in its details in Buenos Aires, Argentina earlier in April. Protests
peaked April 20th and 21st.
Even the New York Times reported that one piece of the crowd alone was a
mile long and a boulevard wide on Saturday the 21st. In addition there
were more than 6000
more radical protesters closer to the police lines in various spots
across the city.(1) MIM finds the claim of 60,000 people total to be
"Free trade" is trade between countries without tariffs, which are
government placed taxes on imports or exports. The FTAA is a "free
trade" agreement that is a proposal, as
yet unratified, that reduces tariffs by 2005 in all of the Western
hemisphere except Cuba and resolves other "non-tariff barriers to
Governments and businesspeople of capitalism spend much time wrangling
over what constitutes fair business competition. When one country wants
to export to another country and finds a tariff or other rule that
dampens its export business, the business and government complain to the
country setting the tariff or other regulation concerning trade or
investment. Such conflicts over trade led to World War I and still
constitute a major problem for the imperialist system, which has war
built into it.
Recent agreements concerning investment (MAI), the NAFTA (North American
Free Trade Agreement), the GATT and the related WTO semi-enforcement
body all shape the legal basis for "fair" competition amongst countries
in business. In the imperialist countries, the middle classes feel that
these new agreements threaten their economic advantages over people from
poor countries, because the imperialists use these new treaty laws to
roll back reforms that the middle-classes fought for or worked out in
previous deals with their rulers. The justification that the rulers give
for rolling back reforms is that it is unfair for some countries to have
these social reforms, because it makes the terrain of business
competition uneven. The Wall Street Journal and others call these
various reforms in different countries "trade barriers." In the treaty
language it becomes possible for corporations to sue governments that
cause them economic disadvantage with business laws that other countries
do not have. In the oppressed nations, many see the trade agreements as
positive proof that imperialism intends to deepen its economic control
of their countries.
MIM does not actually oppose the FTAA or any other international trade
agreement. MIM opposes the profit-system as a whole, and that is not a
matter of any particular treaty. All such treaties are products of
monopoly capitalist corporations exercising their "freedom" to
super-exploit or exploit people who need to work to live. The "freedom"
the imperialists and their lackeys writing the trade treaties support is
the freedom to own private property at the expense of the survival
rights--food, clothing, shelter, medicine, environment--of the
proletariat. In contrast, we believe in "dictatorship of the
proletariat," which means the forcible and legal suppression of those
who believe property is above any persyn's survival rights.
Instead of attacking individual treaties in the fashion of economic
nationalists such as Patrick Buchanan or even Hitler in his day, MIM
supports an international minimum wage, an international child labor
law, international maximums for hours worked per week, environmental
protections etc. We do not believe the capitalists can actually
implement their free trade utopias and we believe the protesters at
Quebec City generally have the wrong strategy while we agree with some
of their environmental, feminist, employment and humyn rights goals.
While MIM is concerned with environmental protections, wage laws and the
rights of wimmin and children, MIM believes the attack on that front
should be global, and not "anti-globalization." It is time to admit that
the U.$. imperialists succeeded in establishing their New World Order
and we should not pretend that the imperialists are not calling most of
the shots in this world. There is no world not dominated by U.$.
imperialism to go back to, the way some anti-globalization people talk.
At the same time, we support the education of the imperialist country
middle-classes on the violence of the state. We also support the efforts
of oppressed nation movements to oppose globalization, because economic
nationalism in oppressed nations is one type of applied
internationalism. It is only in the imperialist countries that we oppose
To host the event, Canada gathered 6,000 police and 1200 military
personnel. 5000 police focussed on gathering near politicians and
getting them from place to place. The rest focussed on the exterior of
their "wall of shame" as the protesters called it. The wall was 2.4
miles of concrete and wire fence.(2) Far from being a "free" country,
Canada used force from the very beginning of its months of preparation
for the Summit.
George W. Bush continued the usual imperialist refrain about "freedom,"
by saying: "'We seek freedom not only for people living within our
borders, but also for commerce
moving across our borders.'"(3) Bush also said, "'José Martí said it
best,' Mr. Bush said, referring to the Havana-born dissident and writer
who died battling for Cuban independence more than a century ago. 'La
libertad no es negociable.'"(3) This is a good example of why MIM does
not like to use the word "liberty" very much. For Bush it
means the freedom to exploit and the freedom to talk about why other
people should die so private property can continue in food, shelter and
clothing. Without specifying liberty to do what, the word "liberty" is
much too vague.
Despite Bush's vague rhetoric designed to fool people to support private
property, many anti-FTAA activists drew a connection between the wall
built up around five square miles of territory where 5,000 people lived
and the "Berlin Wall" that came down with the collapse of the Soviet
bloc. In other words, many people saw right through the "freedom"
rhetoric being thrown about lightly. MIM and all proletarian
internationalists are all in favor of the freedom to cross borders and
have economic cooperation across borders, but history and the lessons of
Quebec City should show that this is not possible within the capitalist
The people--mostly middle-class people--rightly saw the wall of security
as a provocation. A Canadian judge who ruled on the legality of the wall
essentially admitted that he was suspending the Canadian Constitution
and justified it by the size of the political delegations from 34
nations and urgency of the moment: "'The security measures place
significant restrictions on two fundamental liberties guaranteed in the
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, freedom of expression and
freedom of peaceful assembly,' Justice Blanchet wrote."(4)
When middle-class people believe they have a "deal" with their rulers
and find out that the rulers do not respect that deal, they become
disillusioned and rightly attack the imperialist state as in the case of
Canada. Many of the "founding fathers" of the United $tates and perhaps
Abraham Lincoln would have said the people would be right to
overthrow such an unconstitutional government that interpreted the law
the way that made the wall possible. There is nothing particularly new
or advanced for MIM to say about that: bourgeois revolutionaries long
ago understood what it meant if rulers had to employ such measures
against their people.
Probably thanks to the criticism of the "wall," Quebec City came through
on its promises to more moderate protesters to leave them alone in
several blocks roped off for parades and protests. Strategically it was
probably also smart for the police not to provoke the more moderate
demonstrators, and no police were in evidence on the parade blocks
except for helicopters flying overhead.
Nonetheless, even blocks from where the real battle of the streets
occurred, the "legal" demonstrators complained to MIM about the tear gas
which was wafting down from the wall of shame. One young womyn offered
MIM her swimming goggles to protect against gas as she left the area.
In the parade area, anarchists also set up shop with two white trucks,
including one of 18 wheeler length. On top of the larger truck
anarchists held their red and black banner and danced as in a party.
With music and dance, the anarchists attempted to portray an attractive
image of their movement. The sign on their trucks said "temporary
autonomous zone." So it was true, because the government was not in
control of the streets. Even the USA Today reported that protesters
respected private property in the protest zones. MIM would add that
businesses that stayed open did exceedingly brisk business.
As in Seattle in 1999, anarchists played a prominent part in the battle
of the streets. Attention focussed on the so-called "Black bloc" but
beyond the "Black bloc" MIM found
numerous people who are anarchists, radical libertarians or people who
do not realize they are pretty much anarchists.
The radical protesters did much to make the whole event possible,
because the police had to focus on them while attempting to mollify the
moderate protesters. In particular, the radicals did succeed in
intimidating the police and it is important for the moderate protesters
to realize that this occurred, because it opened some space up.
The anarchists succeeded in intimidating police in several ways, many of
which included a willingness to use whatever tactics the police used.
Police earlier in the week had sharpshooters on building rooftops.
Anarchists had people on rooftops too.
Police shot tear gas and rubber bullets. One demonstrator also brought
tear gas to fire back and another shot paint balls. Police brought clubs
and demonstrators brought clubs and shields and gas masks.
Police used helicopters and demonstrators used satellite tracking and
mobile phone and walkie-talkie technology to follow police movements. In
addition, demonstrators had cameras and camcorders everywhere. In
general in the important areas, each officer had three people covering
them tactically. This limited the usual tendency of police to riot
during demonstrations; although police still arrested at least 403
people according to CNN.
The radicals were high-spirited and kept fighting while sustaining many
more injuries than reported. It was not 60 people injured as in the
April 22nd report of USA Today, but thousands suffered tear gas fired in
large quantities. Two separate men showed MIM where they had been shot
with tear gas canisters--between the legs. One man still had the tear
gas canister as a souvenir. Both men were quick enough to avoid being
seriously injured by the soda can sized tear gas cans. MIM repeatedly
saw people injured and then return to the front lines, only to get water
hosed or gassed again. Police also admitted that they left hundreds of
people in buses surrounded in tear gas after arrests and then said they
had to de-contaminate the arrested.(5)
More moderate protesters broke into two camps, some complaining about
the radicals as obscuring their message and others unwilling to
criticize the radicals. In practice, MIM saw that many protesters liked
to go the radical zones closer to the Wall of Shame and then back to the
parade zones. The separation of the two zones was marked by the need to
walk uphill, usually by steep staircases, to the radical zone. The New
York Times reported that over 6,000 people were in the more radical
Anarchists gathered both in the parade zone and the unblockaded streets
closer to the Wall of Shame. After parading in ridiculous costumes, one
anarchist affinity group then went back to the radical zone. "We must be
the dumbest affinity group there is because we are going right up to
them," [the police] one costumed anarchist said through a bullhorn while
marching through the radical zone on the way to the police. When he
arrived, the anarchist told police through his bullhorn: "Attention, the
situation is under control. We repeat, everything is under control. Your
presence is no longer required." So it was that the anarchists told the
police it was time to disperse and go home.
MIM's disagreements with the anarchists shine through in this event,
because the anarchists were highly organized and used the same kind of
tools the police used. The use of organized force is a state or
proto-state whether the anarchists recognize it or not, so only
pacifists should be anarchists and the rest should be Maoists.
Instead of criticizing the radicals, the moderates of the shadow
government like the Sierra Club should build independent media to
criticize the ruling class instead of endlessly believing in the
possibility of using the bourgeois media to get out their message that
they think is oh-so persuasive, persuasive enough to overrule the laws
of capitalist economics. These anti-radical moderates need to study the
media more to understand how little it is possible to communicate
anything through the ruling class's media for anything. They should also
buy independent media, stop criticizing it and not return to just
reading the New York Times when they get home.
Although the media would not cover what they were saying very much, the
middle-classes succeeded in organizing themselves and learning about the
state. Many people who would have had illusions about what actually
happens when police confront protesters saw first-hand. Perhaps now they
will believe what prisoners are saying about conditions in Amerikkkan
prisons, and this was by no means the most brutally repressed
Saturday afternoon, word spread that the use of tear gas was causing
some of the Saturday and Sunday events to be cancelled. Marchers
chanted, "you shut us up, but we shut you down!"
There are some references that appear to validate the claim that the
teargas of the police was actually causing some of the Summit of
Americas events to be closed. From MIM's own observation, the winds and
streets carried tear gas in very unpredictable directions. In addition,
when the sun went down Saturday night, the police fired so much tear-gas
that entire streets were white walls of gas.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell himself said he was used to
tear-gas and did not feel it, but that implied that others did feel
it.(6) CNN also reported that the convention center was "wreathed in
tear gas." The police press release of Sunday April 22nd said, "We know
there were times where the strategies we used inconvenienced a number of
people, the media and the delegations included. Still, we felt that for
the most part people understood we came to do our jobs and that public
safety was our overriding concern."(7)
Making a joke while posing with the Mexican president and Canadian Prime
Minister Chretien, Bush corrected Chretien and said it was his job to
make sure that the two leaders were "intact."(8) Bush had witnessed
television coverage of the protests and made several references to
protesters, but he never met with any despite his rhetoric of outreach.
1. Anthony DePalma, "In Quebec's Streets, Fervor, Fears and a Gamut of
2. Wall Street Journal, Christopher Chipelo, "Quebec Braces for Possible
Violence at This Weekend's Trade Summit," 20April2001. CNN reported that
the fence was actually four miles long.
3. New York Times 22April2001, "Bush Links Trade with Democracy at
4. Associated Press in Wall Street Journal 19April2001.
5. Toronto Globe and Mail 23April2001, which by the way was very
congratulatory of the police.
8. Associated Press in Wall Street Journal 23April2001, "'The Three
Amigos' of the Americas Work to End Disputes, Cement Ties."
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