No more street fighting man

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Sep 23 06:11:16 MDT 2001

No more street fighting man
In the wake of the terrorist attacks, the anti-globalization movement
is trying to rein in violence -- and preparing for a hard road ahead

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By David Moberg (

Sept. 21, 2001 | The terrorist attacks last week that ripped apart
the lives of thousands of people, New York's financial center, the
U.S. economy and Americans' sense of security have done collateral
damage in an unexpected place: the anti-globalization struggle.

As the third hijacked plane plowed into the Pentagon, spokespeople
for a broad coalition of corporate globalization critics were
preparing for a press conference to formally announce a week of
protests during the World Bank and International Monetary Fund
meetings in the last week of September. The groups involved -- drawn
from labor, environmental, religious, world anti-poverty and
anti-corporate movements, including the AFL-CIO, Friends of the
Earth, Oxfam, Rainbow Coalition, Feminist Majority and dozens of
others -- had planned to detail their demands, including canceling
the debts of poor countries, fully funding international efforts
against AIDS and blocking "fast track" trade-negotiating authority
for President Bush.

>From 50,000 to perhaps 100,000 protesters were expected to converge
in Washington, where police had already planned a massive presence
and a protective fence to keep them at bay. The two big international
financial institutions -- long criticized for imposing policies on
poor and developing countries that often worsened the plight of the
majority -- had already cut back their meetings from a week to two
days in anticipation of the protests, the latest in a series
stretching from Seattle in late 1999 through many other sites,
including Quebec last spring and Genoa, Italy, in June.

But the terrorist attacks overshadowed all that. The press conference
never took place. By the end of last week all of the major
organizations involved had called off their protests, and on Monday
the World Bank and IMF officially called off their meetings. One
separate strand of protesters, the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, still
planned to meet and decide what, if anything, they would do, and
another small group, the International Action Center in New York,
called for holding a protest against war and racism on Sept. 30. But
most of the mainstream protest groups either agreed to continue with
only an educational conference or abandoned all actions.

The labor movement had already shifted its grass-roots mobilization
effort from recruiting demonstrators to helping the victims in
Washington and New York, where many union members were either killed
in the attack or are prominently involved in the rescue effort. While
the AFL-CIO and the Mobilization for Global Justice coalition called
off the protests "out of respect for victims of the tragedy," they
also remained steadfast, as labor federation president John Sweeney
said, "in our conviction that the policies of the World Bank and the
IMF must change if they are to foster a fair and just global

Yet the terrorist attacks have clearly set back what participants
call the movement against corporate globalization, or the global
justice movement, at a time when its political momentum and popular
support had been building. "It's an unimaginable tragedy," said Jobs
With Justice director Fred Azcarate. "I don't think any of us knows
how it will impact social movements."

It's clear, though, that anti-globalization groups face new hurdles.
It's politically riskier to criticize the president and American
international policies in a time of foreign conflict or war. And it
will be harder even to put such arguments on the agenda: The nation's
political leaders will be overwhelmingly focused on combating
terrorism in the near future, especially if the Bush administration
launches major military operations.

The question of how best to respond to the terrorist attacks may also
prove divisive. Some of the critics of corporate globalization,
especially the loosely organized local and student groups, are likely
to oppose any military actions. But many organizations, seeing issues
of war and peace as beyond their mandate, are likely to remain
silent. And others may support the use of force.

"I think the movement [against corporate globalization], like
everyone else in the country, has been deeply affected by this," said
Stephen Kretzmann, an organizer of the Mobilization for Justice.
"Like everyone else, we're changed. I don't think in any way it
reduces our commitment to global social and economic justice and
racial equality. But the political landscape in America shifted at
8:42 in the morning last Tuesday. Some careful thought has to be
given to how the movement goes forward."

For one thing, Kretzmann said, "There's widespread recognition that
the talk about 'diversity of tactics' and actual employment of a
diversity of tactics" -- which has included some property destruction
or physical clashes with police by a small minority in past protests
-- "is going to have to be severely moderated in the near future.
We're entering an era when all of our civil liberties are in greater
danger. The patience of politicians, the courts and the public will
be much less than before."


Louis Proyect, lnp3 at on 09/23/2001

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