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(en) Media: Stuart Christie* finds inspiration in Naomi Klein's Fences and Windows

From Dan Clore <clore@columbia-center.org>
Date Sat, 9 Nov 2002 11:01:51 -0500 (EST)


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On: Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the
Globalisation Debate by Naomi Klein
Fences and windows recur throughout this ardent and
inspiring anthology of Naomi Klein's commentaries, reports
and speeches on the very real and present dangers of the
"global market economy". The fences are a metaphor for the
barriers erected by the multinational corporations,
para-governmental institutions and superstates to contain
and separate people from what were previously public
resources, thus "locking them away from much-needed land and
water, restricting their ability to move across borders, to
express political dissent, to demonstrate on public streets,
even keeping politicians from enacting policies that make
sense for the people who elected them". The windows are for
us to open so that we may "breathe deeply and taste
freedom".

But these pieces are not just exciting witness statements
from a liberal journalist who happened to be present at the
World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle in 1999; they
are powerful wake-up calls from a committed libertarian who
understood clearly what was happening that December day: it
was the "precise and thrilling moment when the rabble of the
real world crashed the experts-only club where our
collective fate is determined".

The term globalisation has always struck me as vague and
woolly, grabbed (because of its implied internationalism) by
the corporate would-be masters of the universe to cloak
their own sinister "free trade" agenda. But Klein defines
her terms as she goes along and always makes clear where she
stands and why:

"The economic process that goes by the benign euphemism
'globalisation' now reaches into every aspect of life,
transforming every activity and natural resource into a
measured and owned commodity."

The issues involved are not marginal ones. The hundreds of
thousands of people who take to the streets outside these
trade meetings are there not because they are hostile to
trade itself, or even globalisation, but "because the very
real need for jobs and investment is systematically being
used to undermine all our democracies. The unacceptable
trade is the one that erodes sovereign rights in exchange
for foreign investment".

But "anti-globalisation" is a misleading term. What the
movement reflects, as Klein points out, is the irrelevance
of electoral party politics in the face of global
corporatism, mobile capital and immobile labour: "All over
the world, citizens have worked to elect social democratic
and workers' parties, only to watch them plead impotence in
the face of market forces and IMF dictates."

The anti-globalisation struggle is not new. It is the latest
theme in humanity's never-ending play, one whose main
narrative strands are, as always, the struggle to be human,
the right to live and the need to connect with one's fellow
citizens. It is one in which we are each simultaneously
actor, playwright and audience - but rarely director or
producer.

As Klein points out, what happened in Seattle, Quebec City,
Prague and Genoa is the internet generation's response to
the injustices created by an international economic system
dedicated to furthering the interests and profits of a
handful of wealthy investors and fewer than 1,000 large
corporations. Unlike the old-guard Marxist activists of the
1960s, these web activists "have no top-down hierarchy ready
to explain the master plan, no universally recognised
leaders giving easy sound bites - and no one knows what is
going to happen next".

Klein also observes the movement's weaknesses. During street
demonstrations in Washington, protesting affinity groups
blocked the intersections around the building where the
World Bank/IMF meeting was taking place, preventing
delegates from leaving. Kevin Danaherm, an organiser with a
megaphone, slid down the slippery slope of compromise when
he announced: "OK, everybody listen up. Each intersection
has autonomy. If the intersection wants to stay locked down,
that's cool. If it wants to come up to the Ellipse, that's
cool too. It's up to you."

This may sound fair and democratic but, as Klein points out,
it made absolutely no strategic sense in the context of the
demonstration. Sealing the access points had been a
coordinated action and if some intersections now opened up
while others remained occupied, delegates on their way out
of the meeting could just turn right instead of left, and
they would be free. Which is what happened.

Klein quotes the Indian physicist Vandana Siva, who
elegantly explained mass rejection of World Bank projects as
less a dispute over a particular dam or social programme and
more a fight for local democracy and self-government. "The
history of the World Bank," she said, has been "to take
power away from communities, give it to central government,
then give it to the corporations through privatisation."

This is a book to be savoured and referred to every so
often, even if just to recharge one's moral batteries. Klein
is a fine writer with the gift of conveying much with
little, and the ability to put her finger on the social
pulse every time.

*
· As an 18-year-old, Stuart Christie [a Scotish anarchist] went 
to Madrid participating in a mission to kill General Franco. 
His autobiography, My Granny Made Me An Anarchist, is available 
from http://www.christiebooks.com

-- 
Dan Clore

Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
All my fiction through 2001 and more. Intro by S.T. Joshi.
http://www.wildsidepress.com/index2.htm
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1587154838/thedanclorenecro

Lord We˙rdgliffe and Necronomicon Page:
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9879/
News for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

Said Smygo, the iconoclast of Zothique: "Bear a hammer with 
thee always, and break down any terminus on which is 
written: 'So far shalt thou pass, but no further go.'"
--Clark Ashton Smith


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