Resistance to Neoliberal Globalization Felt at the IIRE
The two years since the Seattle World Trade Organization summit and protests of December 1999 have been years of rapidly rising resistance to neoliberal globalization. In February 2001 the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, brought together thousands of people participating in this resistance, particularly from Latin America and Europe. At our Globalization on 3-24 November this rise in resistance was felt here at the IIRE.
The most striking evidence of the movement's impact was the presence of 8 members of the Brazilian Workers Party among the session's 23 participants. Several IIRE Fellows - like Eric Toussaint of the Committee for Cancellation of Third World Debt and Christophe Aguiton and Pierre Rousset of ATTAC International (an organization working for taxation and control of capital flows) - played a significant role at the World Social Forum. Their ideas and visibility helped attract this year's sizable Brazilian contingent. One whole day of the school was devoted to the road that led from Seattle to Porto Alegre; another two days to the fight against debt and "structural adjustment" in the Third World; and another day to the fight against the Free Trade Area of the Americas expressed in the Quebec City protests.
The Brazilian participants allowed us to devote a day to discussing and analysing their experience of the "participatory budget" in the city of Porto Alegre itself and the surrounding state of Rio Grande do Sul, both governed by the Workers Party's left wing. An experiment in direct democracy that has involved tens of thousands in decisions on priorities and attracted worldwide attention, the participatory budget challenges the limits of liberal, representative democracy.
Many of the session's discussions were informed by materials from social movements taken directly from their websites, thanks to the Institute's new ADSL connection (see page 2). Readings in both English and Spanish were taken for example from the sites of ATTAC International, the World March for Women 2000 and Via Campesina, a global alliance of small farmers and ecologists in opposition to fast food and agribusiness.
Of course the school's planned curriculum was overshadowed by the September 11th events in New York and Washington DC and the war now in progress in Afghanistan. At least in the participants' countries, it seems, the war has not slowed the momentum of the anti-globalization movement, but rather linked struggles against neoliberalism to a new upsurge of anti-militarism.
That applies in particular to Pakistan; a participant attended from the Labour Party of Pakistan, which recently mobilized several thousand people against both the US war (backed by the current Pakistani dictatorship) and fundamentalist terror (condoned by the country's massive Islamic fundamentalist opposition). But it seemed to apply to the other eleven countries represented - Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, the Philippines, Quebec, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Uruguay - as well. A US participant would probably have given a different picture, but unfortunately there was none.
The war fostered more discussion of Islamic fundamentalism, already a hot topic at last year's North-South School. The discussion was less polarized and better informed than last year - many activists have learned a lot about Islam fast in the last few months!
The discussion on the role of feminism in resistance movements also lived on from last year, with three days devoted to it: one to gender and globalization, one to gender and politics and one to gender and social movements. Continuing organization around last year's World March for Women helped focus the discussion for the 9 women participants, who met several times during the session both to plan their reports and to plan future communication and possible coordination of activities.
Our ability to help so many participants attend from poor countries was due once more in large part to generous support from the Jakob Moneta Stiftung of Germany, the Tom Gustafsson Memorial Fund of Sweden, and the Committee for Cancellation of the Third World Debt of Belgium. We close our report once more with warm thanks to them.