BETWEEN THE LINES Q&A
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Global Social Justice Movement Organizing
for Summer Political Conventions and Beyond
Much of the world was caught off guard when a coalition of student, labor, human rights and environmental groups came together to protest the policies of the World Trade Organization in Seattle last winter. The historic mass demonstrations and civil disobedience by tens of thousands there signaled to some the coming of age of a new international movement fighting for economic and social justice. Many of these same groups converged on Washington D.C. in April to similarly protest the policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The movement has since organized demonstrations at an Organization of American States meeting in Windsor, Ontario and at a gathering of oil companies in Calgary. The next targets of this broad coalition are the summer conventions of the Republicans and Democrats. While established economic and political institutions express concern about the growing power of this movement, the corporate media mostly ignores or mischaracterizes the goals of this new anti-corporate alliance.
Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Kevin Danaher, co-founder and organizer with Global Exchange based in San Francisco, Calif. and co-editor of the book "Globalize This! The Battle Against The World Trade Organization," who examines the future direction of the social justice movement born in Seattle and Washington D.C.
Kevin Danaher: We succeeded in both cases -- Seattle and Washington, D.C. -- in dragging the snake out from under the rock and saying here are these secretive institutions that are planning the entire global economy. They're making rules that affect all of us and nature. Shouldn't we at least know what they are?
We succeeded in forcing these institutions onto the public agenda by getting them in the media. I would argue that in my lifetime I've never seen so much anti-corporate message carried in the corporate media. I think that's a major achievement when we can get our critical message into their wholly-owned control of our public airwaves. At least at the minimum, it raised in the public mind, "Hey, what is this institution? Maybe I should pay attention to it."
Between The Lines: Tens of thousands of people from this new movement are organizing demonstrations at the Republican and Democrat conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The AFL-CIO and unions across the country were snubbed by the House of Representatives in a recent vote that brought in the free trade agreement with China, despite their best efforts to defeat it. Where is the movement going in your opinion?
Kevin Danaher: It's really electric in the movement. Demonstrations that used to take weeks to organize now take days. Demonstrations that used to get a few dozen people now get a few hundred. So what I sense going on is, people particularly in this country are ready to reclaim democracy from the corporations that have hijacked it. That's why we've seen the California Nurse's Association, one of our biggest and best trade unions, come out and endorse the Green Party's Ralph Nader for president.
So that not only means the union is going to vote for him, but they're really well organized and they've got a lot of credibility at the community level. They're going to be out campaigning for Ralph Nader. And I needn't remind people that California is the biggest electoral college vote state, a key state that all the candidates want. So as Ralph Nader gains ground here in California, it's going to rattle these guys a little bit and we're going to rattle them when we're out in the streets screaming and yelling at them. We've got some plans -- non-violent, interesting plans -- down in L.A., which Global Exchange is more focused on, because we're a West Coast organization. The Democrats are having a sort of "schmoozefest" party one night on the Santa Monica pier with their big donors and all. So we're going to do a big party on the beach, as close as we can get to them, and raise a ruckus with an anti-corporate message. If we do nothing more than get the media to focus on the issues that are not being covered, that will have been a great public service to bring that out into the light of day.
Between The Lines: Kevin Danaher, does this movement go deeper than demonstrations utilizing civil disobedience and activists holding up placards in the street? Are there other dimensions of the struggle that are falling below the media radar screen?
Kevin Danaher: Yeah, and they're not going to get covered by the major media because it's critical of corporate power and the media is mostly corporations. Yes, starting from the top, at the political, state level. When we came out of Seattle, there were basically two groups in Seattle: the AFL-CIO and the internationalists. There were really good ties built up between the internationalists and the AFL-CIO.
But a key difference is that when it was over, the AFL-CIO went back to Washington, and they have a political vehicle called the Democratic party. Whereas us internationalists have the Green Party and we've got Nader, but you know, that party isn't as big or well-funded or powerful and it doesn't have any seats in Congress. So it raised the political party question, and people now are going to have to revisit this issue of how we build a progressive, non-corporate party in this country.
There's a whole revitalization of the movement but there is a realization that we've got to get power, we've got to get some representation in the legislature that turns out the rules. So, what I sense going on out there is, a real serious confrontation looming particularly this election year where people are pissed and they're not going to take it any more. They're ready to struggle to reclaim control of this society from the corporations that have taken it over.
Contact Global Exchange by calling 1-800 497-1994 or visit their Web site at http://www.globalexchange.org.
"Globalize This!" is published by Common Courage Press.
Scott Harris is WPKN Radio's public affairs director and executive producer of Between The Lines. Between The Lines Q&A is compiled and edited by Anna Manzo. To get details on subscribing to the radio program or to publish this column in print or online media, contact us at (203)544-9863 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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