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(en) A short history of the new international network of struggles and the birth of the Peoples Global Action

From FWDed by Dave Bleakney <DBLEAKNEY@CUPW-STTP.ORG>
Date Thu, 14 Sep 2000 16:15:19 -0400

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

If there's one point on which everyone in the movement
seems to agree, it's that action-hopping is getting old.
The big mobilizations, like the April World Bank/IMF
protests and this summer's actions at the Republican and
Democratic conventions, are wearing people down. Hardball
police tactics have made them cost more, while the
sneering corporate media has made them matter less.
These days, many of the people who worked on the big
actions of the past year are reassessing, looking toward
more community-based organizing and moving away from big
blockade events.

The magic of this moment in time, though, is that the
urge to get in power's way has become irrepressible.
New people and new groups are clearly feeling inspired
to make things happen, often in places that haven't yet
seen much action. Check out Protest.Net, and you'll
find a formidable - yet only partial - list of major
upcoming demonstrations and direct actions, denoted by
the abbreviated dates that have become standard movement
syntax: S26, O3, O15, O17, N10, N17, A15.

But while the now-seasoned veterans of Seattle, D.C.,
Windsor, Philly, and L.A. are sorting out their next
steps, and newly active organizers are stepping forward,
it's worth looking back at the untold history of this
movement. For while many people have been giving serious
thought to the future of big actions, few know about
their past.

The initial spark of the anti-globalization movement
came on January 1, 1994, when the North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect. On that day,
a hitherto unknown group of revolutionaries, the
Zapatista National Liberation Army, rose up in the
southern Mexican state of Chiapas. The armed skirmishes
lasted less than two weeks; unlike other Latin American
guerrilla movements of the past, the Zapatistas did not
seek a military victory. Instead, they hoped to inspire
the downtrodden - both in Chiapas and the world at large -
to organize and empower themselves, creating "an
intercontinental network of resistance against

By "neoliberalism" the Zapatistas meant the current global
capitalist order, with its agenda of trade liberalization
and privatization of public goods. Economic neoliberals
(not to be confused with political liberals) seek to
maximize profit by removing all barriers to global business:
pesky impediments like labor and environmental laws, for
instance. Neoliberalism is the philosophical underpinning
of corporate globalization, the foundation for trade
agreements like NAFTA and for the World Trade Organization.

In 1996 and 1997, the Zapatistas convened two massive
encuentros, or gatherings, "For Humanity and Against
Neoliberalism." These brought together thousands of
people from popular movements around the world,
particularly from the Global South: labor unions,
indigenous and community groups, peasants' and farmers'
associations, human rights and environmental
organizations, and more. The gatherings were intended
not to create a global organization or produce a unified
strategy, but to discuss how different groups were
affected by neoliberalism and how movements might
coordinate their resistance.

After the second encuentro, in August 1997, some 50
representatives of these varied movements - including
indigenous groups from Nigeria and Mexico, and farmers'
organizations from India, Brazil, Bolivia, and Indonesia -
sat down to plan worldwide protests against the World
Trade Organization, the prime symbol and instrument of
corporate globalization. To facilitate organizing, they
created an ongoing network, which they called Peoples'
Global Action Against "Free" Trade and the WTO, or
PGA for short.

The first Global Days of Action took place in late
May 1998, coinciding with the WTO's Second Ministerial
Conference, held in Geneva. There was barely a blip of
participation from the United States: The only coordinated
events were a radical street party in Berkeley and a small
forest-preservation action in Arcata, the heart of
California's Redwood region.

But in 28 other countries, it was a different story
entirely. Five hundred thousand people took to the
streets of Hyderabad in India, with the rallying cry,
"We, the people of India, hereby declare that
we consider the WTO our brutal enemy." In Brazil,
an anti-WTO march drew some 50,000 people, including
members of the country's Movement of Landless People,
who were simultaneously looting supermarkets and
government food stores as a protest against hunger.
Some 20 cities held Global Street Parties, raucous
and celebratory takeovers of public space, inspired
by Reclaim the Streets (RTS), a movement that began
in England during the early 1990s from a convergence
of Earth First! campaigners against road construction
and ravers fighting criminalization of their
underground party scene.

Meanwhile, in Geneva, on the first day of the WTO
meeting, 10,000 protested vigorously outside, while
some of the more militant youth vandalized some banks
and a McDonald's; the police attacked demonstrators
with clubs and tear gas, but actions continued for
three more days, including traffic blockades and a
march by 1000 bound and gagged people, symbolizing
the silencing of civil society by corporate rule.

Just over a year later, on June 18, 1999, PGA coordinated
a "Global Day of Action Against Financial Centers," also
called a "Carnival Against Capital," to coincide with
the G8 Summit meeting of the major industrial powers.
If the 1998 actions were impressively large and
widespread, J18 (when this sort of abbreviation was
first used) was staggering. There were events in well
over 100 cities and more than 40 countries: from
Australia to Zimbabwe, Sweden to South Korea, Chile
to the Czech Republic. Famously, J18 in London escalated
into anti-capitalist mayhem, with millions of dollars
of property damage to corporate and financial
institutions, in a protest that partly inspired the
actions of Seattle's Black Bloc.

In the U.S., activists in eight cities - including
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Eugene, Boston, New York,
and D.C. - organized actions for J18, mainly under
the auspices of Reclaim the Streets, which had
crossed the Atlantic over the previous year; the
largest of them had several hundred participants.
The American movement was still flying below radar,
reaching a fairly small number of people in the know,
but that was changing quickly.

Peoples' Global Action gathered again in August 1999
in the Indian city of Bangalore, hosted by a local
radical farmers association known for torching
genetically modified crops and burning down a KFC
fast-food outlet. The agenda? To coordinate N30,
the next global day of action, which was to coincide
with the meeting of the World Trade Organization
in Seattle.



What is Neoliberalism?

Peoples' Global Action

J18 Carnival Against Capital

Reclaim the Streets

PGA Bangalore Conference

FREE RADICAL: chronicle of the new unrest
          by L.A. KAUFFMAN


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