An S30 Victory Six Weeks in Advance
In a joint statement released on August 14, 2001, the IMF/World Bank reported that their annual meeting, originally scheduled to run for two weeks, would be reduced to two days. (The normal two-week meeting had previously been shortened to one week.)
An earlier press release (August 10, 2001) stated that the decision to consolidate the meeting was being made after consulting the U.S. government. "The World Bank and IMF fully share the interest of the U.S. authorities, in their role as host of the event, in ensuring the conduct of all essential business with the least possible disruption to the people who live and work in Washington, D.C."
If one of the aims of anti-capitalist globalization activism is to raise the social costs of doing business-as-usual, then movement participants can count the IMF/World Bank's change in plans as a victory. Private financiers and government officials who are used to trading information, socializing, and conducting business in a leisurely manner - free of scrutiny, not to mention the smell of tear gas - are being forced to make what the Washington Post calls "a major change."
Says the Post (August 11, 2001), "The prospect of hotels stormed and streets filled with tear gas had already raised doubts in some minds about the chances for much socializing or private business this year. But reducing the meetings to a single weekend would further shrink that sort of extracurricular activity, along with the academic-like seminars and panel discussions that also are a hallmark of the gatherings."
Thanks to the hard work of anti-capitalist globalization activists worldwide, dealers in international trade and finance can no longer meet comfortably unless, perhaps they're in the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar, where the biannual meeting of the World Trade Organization will be held in November, or the inaccessible Canadian Rockies, where next year's G-8 meeting is planned, or even cyberspace. (Earlier this year, the World Bank cancelled a development seminar in Barcelona and held it online instead, citing security concerns.)
Forcing the world's self-appointed money- and resource-managers to meet in far-flung places and experience curtailed networking opportunities is indeed a victory. At previous protests, I have heard activists express disappointment that they did not manage to "shut down the meeting." And here we have a meeting that, if not shut down is, at least, drastically shortened. Further, some attendees will probably not come because of the reduced amount of meeting time and the added inconvenience of police barricades.
So, activists, take note of this victory. Celebrate it. Parade it around as an example of the power of protest. But most importantly, put it out there in your organizing work as an example of what it means to bring about social change by raising the cost of operating under the status quo. Our goal, after all, is not simply to truncate or even shut down a meeting. Our goal is to build a massive grassroots movement of people who find the status quo unacceptable, and who pressure institutions to change. We need to:
The police expect 50,000 in DC next month. So that (plus lessons of recent history) is the number it takes to worry the authorities, inconvenience the city, and discomfort the bankers. It will take much more than that to make further inroads - such as opening the meetings to the public, subjecting international trade and banking measures to true democratic pressures, and creating just and equitable domestic institutions and economic policy.
Encourage activists to join and/or create organizations that are building local infrastructure.
A young activist told me that, of the 10 high school students she organized to take to Seattle to protest the World Trade Organization, all had since dropped out of school, and none was politically active. Protests can be powerful politicizing moments for people. They can also leave people filled with the anger and despair. Organizing for national demonstrations should leave behind as its legacy, not just cathartic moments for activists and drastically reduced meetings for the world's powerbrokers, but people who are connected to a local infrastructure of social change work.
Make connections between local and global struggles.
One example: the Boston Global Action Network (BGAN) and City Life/Vida Urbana (a grassroots tenant and community organization) are working together on neighborhood meetings that bring activists of all stripes together to talk about their work and the connections between their efforts. Exploring the negative effects of privatization - in neighborhoods as well as worldwide - is one way that local and global activists can find common ground, and share strength.
Organize people for long-term work
A summer intern at United for a Fair Economy lamented that she would miss following through on many of the projects she helped to launch during the last few months. "Don't worry," I replied. "Just come back when you're done with school, and you can rejoin where you left off, assuming the normal glacial pace of this kind of work." I didn't mean to sound cynical. And I told her so. This is the work of all our lifetimes, and probably many more. We need to create long-term strategies in our personal lives that make it possible for us to be life-long activists. So, write your senior thesis; stay in school if it is meaningful to you; do what you need to do to stay with this work for the long haul.
We can win. Let's celebrate our victories and keep building towards our larger goals.
For more information about the World Bank/IMF demonstrations in Washington, DC, see http://www.september30.org