Fwd (GLW): DSP congress: globalising resistance to capitalism

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Mon Jan 15 06:33:26 MST 2001

The following article appears in the current issue of Green Left Weekly

DSP congress: globalising resistance to capitalism

It is just a little over 12 months since the protests against the World
Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in Seattle awoke the world to the
gathering strength of a new anti-corporate movement against neo-liberal

It's not that there hadn't been protests against the WTO, the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank before. There had been. Throughout
the Third World for decades the workers, peasants, and urban poor have been
rebelling against poverty and repression, plunder by the multinational
corporations and the enforcing of neo-liberal policies by institutions such
as the IMF and World Bank.

What was significant about the Seattle protests was their size, the
determination of the protesters and the participation of trade unions,
albeit on a nationalist program of defending American jobs against workers
from other countries.

The Seattle protests were also significant because they indicated the
existence of growing opposition within the rich imperialist countries to
attempts to spread neo-liberal policies across the globe.

As the year 2000 progressed, the “Seattle effect” spread. First it was
Washington, then the wave of protests spread through Melbourne, Prague,
Seoul, and finally Nice.

A key task of the Democratic Socialist Party's 19th congress, held January
3-7 near Sydney and attended by 287 delegates and observers, was to assess
the significance of this movement in world and Australian politics, and to
vote on proposals to help develop this movement.

In the congress report on The international political situation: austerity
and war, Green Left Weekly editor and DSP national executive member Doug
Lorimer noted five features of this global anti-corporate movement:

1) The new movement reflects a growing crisis of popular legitimacy for the
imperialist ruling class's drive to globalise their neo-liberal policy
agenda of rolling back all the economic concessions made to working people
in the developed capitalist countries during the long “boom” from the late
1940s to the early 1970s.

2) Large numbers of people, especially young people, in the imperialist
countries are deeply concerned at the deepening of poverty in the
underdeveloped countries which has resulted from neo-liberal globalisation.

3) The crisis of legitimacy for neo-liberal globalisation is most
immediately focused on the imperialist-dominated international economic
institutions that are seen as the key vehicles for promoting and imposing
neo-liberalism around the world — the WTO, IMF, World Bank and World
Economic Forum 1(WEF).

4) The movement is objectively anti-capitalist in its dynamics because
opposition to the drive to globalise neo-liberal policies runs counter to
the interests of the capitalist rulers in the rich imperialist countries of
North America, western Europe, Japan and Australia.

5) This social movement, like every other, is broadly divided between two
trends — a spontaneously class-struggle trend centred around the radical,
consciously anti-capitalist forces and a consciously class collaborationist
trend headed by the trade union bureaucracy.

The congress made the assessment that this new movement presented
revolutionary Marxists with the opportunity to win large numbers of working
people in the imperialist countries to an anti-capitalist, internationalist

Australian activists got a taste of this new anti-corporate movement at the
S11 protests against the WEF in Melbourne last September.

As DSP national executive member Peter Boyle noted in his report on The
Australian political situation and our perspectives after S11, “Last
September thousands of activists from the mass social movements of the last
three decades joined up with younger activists at the three-day S11
blockade of the World Economic Forum” and it “revitalised the faith in
`peoples' power' in the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands more”.

The 20,000-strong S11 protests indicated that an important radical
constituency exists in Australia. This constituency is primarily young but
also includes veterans from the social movements of a decade or more ago
and a significant number of politically advanced workers and unionists. A
common feature is that these people are concerned about more than a single
issue and have drawn the conclusion that the heart of all these issues is
the increasingly unrestrained pursuit of corporate profits.

Congress delegates made the assessment that the S11 protests represented a
significant break from traditional ALP control of the social movements, and
that the revolutionary left parties, in particular the DSP, played a
decisive leadership role.

One of the most significant victories at S11 was the break from traditional
Labor control of the mass movements. Regardless of whether the Labor Party
is in “opposition” or is the governing party, it has consistently scuttled
campaigns against the neo-liberal policies which are being implemented in
Australia. If the anti-corporate movement remains free of the shackles of
ALP domination, there will be a potential to build mass resistance to
neo-liberal attacks on working people's living standards in this country.

However, the ALP is desperately working to add this movement to its list of
muzzled protest movements.

Another important feature of the S11 protests was the emergence of an
internationalist leadership for the blockade. This leadership argued that
international solidarity between workers in different countries, combined
with militant action in this country, is a more certain way of protecting
jobs than calling on the pro-capitalist governments, whether headed by
Labor or Liberal politicians, to impose protectionist tariffs on exports
from the Third World.

The assessment was made that after Seattle, Washington, Melbourne, Seoul,
Prague and Nice, we can be confident that this anti-corporate movement will
remain alive. One reason for this is that the gains of Seattle, the
postponement of the WTO round of trade talks, has not yet been undone,
giving activists a feeling of confidence.

After the success of the S11 protests in Melbourne, the radical left in
Australia had a choice. It could bask in the success of the protests and
move on to other campaigns, or, it could seek to develop the movement
against neo-liberal globalisation by initiating further actions.

The congress delegates voted to keep this movement alive and moving forward
by initiating further actions.

In his report, Lorimer made the point that “if the movement is to build on
its successes in de-legitimising” the world economic institutions, “it
needs to demonstrate to the rest of the population that these institutions'
newly found concern for Third World poverty is nothing more than hollow

To do this, “the movement needs to retain its public visibility by staging
mass street protests that disrupt the normal functioning of corporate
capitalism's most publicly visible institutions”.

To maintain momentum, Lorimer argued that the movement will also need begin
raising demands on the corporate rulers to immediately implement measures
which could lessen Third World poverty. Such demands could include:

* Immediate and unconditional cancellation of the entire debt owed by all
Third World countries to the imperialist countries.

* Abolition of the IMF, World Bank and the WTO.

* Abolition of the wall of non-tariff barriers imposed by the imperialist
countries on the agricultural and manufactured exports of the Third World.

* Restoration of the Basic Commodities Agreements and other defence schemes
designed to compensate poor countries from unequal exchange.

* Abolition of all restrictions, including patent and intellectual property
fees, for Third World countries' importation of advanced technology from
the imperialist countries.

As it is unusual for meetings of the world economic institutions to be held
in Australia, the delegates decided that we can't wait for such meetings to
occur here in order to organise demonstrations.

Instead, a proposal was endorsed that the next major focus of the movement
against corporate tyranny in Australia would be an anti-corporate strike
and blockade of all stock exchanges on May 1, 2001.

In arguing for the proposal, Boyle said “To get the mass anti-corporate
constituency on the streets again, we need the appropriate sort of action —
one that would capture the imagination of the wide range of people who
oppose corporate tyranny and are prepared to do something radical about it.
Just another march and rally would not do. Many of the people who turned
out at S11 would not have bothered if it was just another rally addressed
by trade union officials or ALP politicians who are not interested in
changing society. This proposal expresses the strong desire in this
movement to break out from the `normal channels' of dissent.

“A successful mass civil disobedience depends on the principle `When
injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty'. A blockade of the stock
exchanges will force the corporate ruling class and its governments to try
and defend the morally indefensible. They simply could not defend the WTO
at Seattle, the IMF and the World Bank at Washington and Prague, and the
WEF in Melbourne because these institutions had been widely exposed as
instruments of corporate exploitation.”

Certainly, the stock exchange is symbolic of exploitation under capitalism.
Don't get fooled by US President Bill Clinton's or Prime Minister John
Howard's claims that we live in a “shareholder democracy”.

The top 5% of stockholders in the US hold 94.5% of all publicly traded
stock and they are raking in the money. The share of after-tax corporate
profits paid out to their rentier owners as dividends has increased from an
average of 44% between the end of the 1960s to 70% in the period 1990-1997.
Considering that company profits have also increased significantly, the
rentier owners' snouts are well and truly in the trough.

“The prospect of disrupting `normal business' in the heart of the business
districts of major cities around the world on May 1 is the kind of militant
action that can convince individual workers and students, regardless of
what their union officials or student representative councils say, to
strike against corporate tyranny on that day in order to join a mass
reclaiming of a part of the city that the corporate elite consider their
own”, said Boyle.

Melbourne's S11 Alliance supports this project and has renamed itself the
M1 Alliance. M1 coalitions have also been established in Sydney, Adelaide,
Hobart and Perth. In addition to strikes by workers and university
students, the socialist youth organisation Resistance is planning to call a
high school walk-out on the day

However, this focus on the global movement against neo-liberal policies
does not mean that the DSP is dropping its other campaigns.

The reports and proposals adopted by the congress reaffirmed that the DSP
will maintain its current campaign perspectives to build a militant current
in defence of workers rights in the trade union movement, rebuild an
activist student movement, build a campaign for refugees to be released
from detention and granted permanent residency and maintain involvement in
the women's liberation movement. However, these movements and campaigns
should not be isolated from each other or from the anti-corporate movement.

The other major area of work involving DSP members is its long-term
international solidarity work with struggles in Indonesia, East Timor,
Latin America and Palestine.

As was pointed out in a report on political developments in Indonesia by
DSP national executive member and ASIET (Action in Solidarity with
Indonesia and East Timor) national chairperson Max Lane: “It is vital that
revolutionary activists in Australia continue to expose Australia's
imperialist policies in the Asia and Pacific regions. Maintaining our
solidarity with the comrades in the People's Democratic Party in Indonesia
and the Socialist Party of Timor is one way in which we can do this.”

Delegates endorsed a proposal in Lane's report for a day of action on
February 21 against the Australian government's attempt to retain control
of oil reserves in the Timor Sea which rightfully belong to East Timor.

Other highlights of the DSP congress included the adoption of a resolution
outlining Australia's imperialist role in the Asia-Pacific region and a new
resolution on the Cuban Revolution.

Visit the Democratic Socialist Party's web site at http://www.dsp.org.au.

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