New Allies May Hit Support for Anti-Globalisers

While some in the anti-globalization movement, like Gail Taylor of the Colombia mobilisation, see a direct link between trade liberalization and support for leftist guerillas, others like Thea Lee of the AFL-CIO worry about the risk of merging anti-globalization and anti-war protests. Lee remarks about the AFL-CIO’s absence from protests at the IMF-World Bank meetings: “A lot of the protests seem rather unfocused and they are touching on issues on which our membership does not have a consensus.” As anti-globalizers become more radical they will lose support of more mainstream groups like Oxfam and Friends of the Earth. – YaleGlobal

New Allies May Hit Support for Anti-Globalisers

Alan Beattie
Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Washington is preparing for the military and economic turmoil around the globe to come home to its own streets this week.

Following a pro-Israel rally on Monday, protesters against US involvement in Israel, Colombia and Afghanistan plan co-ordinated demonstrations this weekend.

They will be joined under the A20 (for April 20) banner by anti-globalisation protesters targeting the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

The protesters say economic imperialism and US militarism are two sides of the same coin. "From the World Bank to the West Bank: a lot of people are beginning to make the connection," said Rami Elamine, an activist with the Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People, at an A20 teach-in at the DC University on Saturday.

Gail Taylor, of the Colombia mobilisation, made the link by telling attendees how trade liberalisation forced Colombia to import the subsidised corn grown in her home state of Illinois, destroying local farmers' livelihoods and pushing them to support leftist guerrillas.

But, while the organisers insist that blending anti-globalisation and anti-war protests broadens their support, it may also risk alienating many. Opinion polls suggest the US public remains solidly behind the military operations in Afghanistan and, while, ambiguous on Israel's recent actions, is not generally pro Palestinian.

The protests this weekend are expected to draw a few thousand in total and the anti-globalisation sections maybe a few hundred. This is a sharp contrast from the tens of thousands who blockaded the city during the IMF meetings two years ago and similar numbers at yesterday's pro-Israel rally.

In particular, the hierarchy of the labour union movement will be largely absent from the streets this weekend. US trade unionists, who oppose the IMF and World Bank's role in promoting trade liberalisation, have provided organisational and financial muscle to anti-globalisers in the past. Co-ordinating with the anti-capitalist Mobilisation for Global Justice (MGJ) grouping, the AFL-CIO umbrella union organisation was planning massive rallies at the abortive IMF-World Bank meetings last September.

"On this occasion, we are not joining the demonstrations," said Thea Lee, assistant public policy director of the AFL-CIO. "A lot of the protests seem rather unfocused and they are touching on issues on which our membership does not have a consensus." Indeed, in the robust tradition of US labour unionism, John Sweeney, the AFL-CIO president, has given several speeches supporting US military action in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The AFL-CIO has not given up on its work in the anti-liberalisation area. Alongside more mainstream non-governmental organisations such as Friends of the Earth and Oxfam America, it is launching a joint report this week calling for "responsible reform" at the World Bank.

But for the more radical elements of the anti-globalisation movement, as long as they wear T-shirts sloganed "We are all Palestinians" and share platforms with anti-war organisations, they may struggle to attract broad support for street mobilisations in the US.

© Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2002