Strategies Against the WTO Meeting in Sydney

author: new kids on the bloc - 29.08.2002 02:38

The announcement that the World Trade Organisation will conduct a "mini-ministerial" in Sydney on November 14-15 has injected the autonomous left with renewed energy.

At first site is seems that those wishing to organise in an anti-capitalist, decentralised and libertarian manner have quickly taken much of the initiative. Such politics, in my opinion, are currently in a period of growth, particularly after the woomera2002 protests which, despite its faults, proved much of their practical potential.
I write this to put out, as others have been on indymedia, some ideas for discussion. I have more questions than answer and am interested in what people's ideas are.

Education and Action

Before people go off talking of blockading/attacking protesting or whatver the political context for such action needs to be established first. Before we scream "shut it down" (which by the way i completely endorse) we need to be clear why. What is the aim of the meeting and how does it affect our lives? What does the wto do? Why should i go to Sydney or take action in my local community? People feel the effects of capitalist neo-liberalism and structural adjustment on a daily basis. Whether it is the shipping of work overseas, corporate downsizing, the gentrification of suburbs, the cut backs to education and welfare or the borders the government builds to keep people out. A large number of people throughout Australia are pissed off. This doesn't mean that everyone knows exactly why or can pin point who or what is driving this, I certainly need to learn a lot more.
The point I'm trying to make is that before we demand action we gotta explain why or otherwise we become a parody of what the media says activists are; a rent a crowd. In this sense then teach-ins about the wto and capitalist globalisation are needed. Also groups who could go out and speak to others about the wto (and capitalism in general) so as to build networks would also be useful.

Beyond Violence vs Non-violence - Beyond Blockading

It was disturbing at s11 how much blockading was fetishised as the only tactic. Whilst I think in certain cases picket lines and blockades are a useful tactic they seem to be employed by trotskyist groups more as a way of corralling people into a mega-phone receptacles. They emphasised an organisatinal strategy based on modernist uniformity. With the rise of technologies such as the internet the possibilities to organise horizontally has greatly increased. The mass working class that these tactics have been based around has change. People now work in more diffuse and decentralised ways. Mass culture has given way to more diverse sub-cultures. The emphasis on decentralisation and diversity articulates this. The danger is that diversity becomes a cover for individualism and liberalism.

Obviously there are many other strategies from black bloc to snake marches, street parties to marching bands to the 'tactical frivolity' of the pink and silver bloc. The idea of 'respect for diversity of tactics' is one that could take us far beyond the boundaries of violence vs non-violence and mass uniformity as political ideas. The onus is however on both the non-violent groups to refuse to do the cops work by isolating those that engage in more confrontational tactics and on those sections to ensure the safety of others and to act democratically by not forcing situations on others. "Respect for diversity of tactics" goes both ways and shouldn't be seen as an opportunity for unbridled machismo or diffusing our politics.
Disobedience and direct action that express the reasons why, both literary and literally, should be encouraged.

Do the Math, s11 + m1 doesn't equal n14.

One crucial aspect I think is to go beyond the numbers and letter game and also beyond defining ourselves as anti-globalisation. Most people seem to be adopting this but there is some residual branding people seem to be unable to escape. Viewing the wto protests as a sequel to s11 is counter-productive, seeing them as part of a cycle of struggle from which to take critical inspiration is another matter. We need to develop new language so as to avoid falling into ritualised roles, especially around the problematic activities of summit stalking, already a well rehearsed role that needs some serious breaking if it is to go beyond mere spectacle and liberal/leftist moralising.

Against Nationalism

Their is a huge need to posit an anti-nationalist and anti-statist current within the protests that goes beyond union, ngo and socialist demands for a strong state to regulate global capital. The contradictions need to be drawn out between the free movement of capital and corporations and the increasing confinement of the movement of people. I will be choking on my porridge if i hear anyone calling this an anti-globalisation protest. The problem of capitalist globalisation cannot be solved through nationalist means. Globalisation forces us to act beyond the nation state to create real globalisation. The result will merely be capital flight, the CIA no doubt will be sure to topple whoever comes along. The problem is a global one and needs to be taken to such a level, beyond the nation state and governments, and establish links, networks of solidarity, with the local. The ideas of a migrant march and no-border actions have already been floated by some.

Down with Reactionism

The authoritarian left in Australia, though on the rise post s11, is receding in my opinion. The shift towards more participatory and decentralised methods are gaining favour, not because people have engaged in fantastic amounts of trot bashing but because they are proving themselves practically. Beyond the mass workplace, diffuse networks create a situation for direct democracy to function with little hierarchy and centralisation. In my opinion the social and class composition act in favor of such methods. The danger however is to take them to the level of individualism and to play down the commonalities. The commonalities are what allow us to act together, diversity is what keeps us together. The point I'm trying to make is that we should refused to get bogged down reacting to what the socialist parties are doing and produce what we want to see.

Ongoing Networks - thinking 2 steps ahead

In chess, moves are made not thinking of your or the opponents next move but thinking 2,3,4 steps ahead. Our approach should be similar. Where do we want the no-wto actions to take us and how can we get there? For me the construction of an ongoing regional autonomous network of anti-capitalist, anti-state groups would be one such project that might facilitate an anti-authoritarian approach to social change. Something that would carry with it the new world in the shell of the old. This might help us avoid getting bogged down in post-wto in sectarian clashes and carry the momentum into a regional (i.e. pan-national) network of local struggles.

Beyond the Spectacle - into everyday life.

Mass actions can be very useful in articulating and establishing a broader fabric of struggle. They allow for networking through practical goals, they bring people together, they establishing commonality through the recognition that our struggles are inter-related. Hopefully they disrupt, at least temporarily the workings of the capitalist machine. However taking the struggles beyond reacting to meetings of capitalists is essential. How exactly to do this I don't know. In many ways it seems that the protests exist outside of everyday life. They are spectacles that have little affect on people's everyday conditions. I certainly don't have any answers but I'm interested in hearing from people about how to take the cycles of struggle that have developed from the anti-capitalist globalisation movement into the everyday. The power of the wto is very real. It's use as a tool to expand neo-liberalism and corporate power; down sizing, privatisation, the race to the bottom, exploitation of the environment etc have real effects on our lives. The question is, how do we move from the spectacle into the everyday?

What do we want?

I'm also really interested to see people articulating the world we do want, and I don't mean LETS and solar power, something a little more substantial. In many ways that comes through how we organise and the internal culture we create. At the same time i'm really interested to hear practical alternatives. It's a question that has been asked a thousand times but I still want to know, what do we want instead. If there is one "no" what are the many "yeses"? What are the many worlds we want and how are we going to get there?

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