(from Communist Voice #26, May 1, 2000).
. On April 20-22, the Summit of the Americas saw government leaders from North and South America get together to pave the way for declaring a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) a few years from now. It also saw over 30,000 demonstrators travel to Quebec City to denounce the FTAA, free-market fanaticism, and the secret deal-making at the summit. A number of smaller actions to support the Quebec City protests took place elsewhere, from San Diego to Brazil, from Ontario (Canada) to Blaine (Washington).
. Indeed, the free trade offensive and the proposed FTAA aren't just a matter of reducing tariffs. They are designed to speed up the pace of privatization throughout the Americas. Already there have been struggles in Latin America over the privatization of water, education and other social services. The FTAA is also designed to help remove the all restrictions, environmental or elsewhere, on the flows of capital from one place to another and on any scheme to make a buck: they are all labeled as restrictions on free trade. The FTAA will also continue the path of NAFTA and the WTO of having the most important decisions about the people's welfare made in trade tribunals, which are not accountable to anyone, and sometimes in secret proceedings.
. The bourgeois leaders at the Quebec City Summit negotiated the key issues behind closed doors. They were determined to ignore the views of the working masses, so outside in the streets the police were in a frenzy to suppress protest. For months prior to the demonstration, new laws were considered in Quebec City, such as banning the wearing of scarves over part of the face (it might make tear gas less effective). What demonstrators called the "Wall of Shame" was built to fence off the Summit meeting place from the rest of the city. During the demonstrations, the police attacked the demonstrators indiscriminately and repeatedly, making use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannon, while the police also formed some plain-clothes squads to beat and snatch people from among a group of demonstrators. Hundreds of people were arrested, and in many cases the police arrested people as a means of preventive detention simply to keep people off the streets during the Summit.
. But the demonstrators didn't wilt in the face of this repression. They continued to hold their ground and demonstrate, while some confronted the police and others tore holes in the Wall of Shame. The Canadian government of Liberal federalist Prime Minister Jean Chretien and the Quebec government of Parti Quebecois separatist Premier Bernard Landry had studied the "lessons of Seattle", which for them wasn't to hold up on neo-liberal policies but to figure out how to stomp the people harder. They thought they could silence the voice of the masses at Quebec City, but things didn't work out that way. The high spirit and determination of the demonstrators made Quebec City into a victory for the protest movement. Wherever the leaders of the bourgeoisie meet to plan more free-market moves, they are facing demonstrations, whether it is in Seattle, in Quebec City, or in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, a little over a week later, May Day demos were held in London (England), Sydney (Australia), Germany and elsewhere, and neo-liberal market-fanaticism was again a major target.
. The movement against neo-liberal summits, treaties, and world agencies expresses the anger of the working people who are being threatened with ruin by the capitalist offensive. Many different organizations and trends were represented among the activists, from those who thought the capitalist world agencies could be reformed, to those who wanted them abolished; from pro-capitalist trade union leaders to radical workers and youth; from those who simply want a return to protectionism to those who want to see a new class struggle. The movement thus provides an opportunity for activists to sort out different ideas about the cause of the neo-liberal offensive, and what should be done to oppose it. However important the demonstrations against the neo-liberal summits are, they will not in themselves stop neo-liberalism. The success of the movement has to be judged in how effective it is in encouraging new organizations of struggle among the working class, for in the final analysis it is only mass working class resistance that can block the plans of the bourgeoisie and, ultimately, overthrow capitalist class rule. For the movement to accomplish this, as well as to spread the demonstrations today to larger sections of the people, requires that activists build up a new revolutionary trend within this movement.
. Supporters of the Communist Voice participated in local demonstrations in the Seattle area and Detroit to support the Quebec City demonstrators. We aimed especially to clarify important political questions. In preparation for the mass actions, we distributed leaflets at some workplaces in Detroit, and organized discussion among the workers about the plans to be hatched at the Summit of the Americas against the working people. It is not the pro-capitalist union bureaucrats, even when they show at anti-free trade demos, who represent the mass of the working class, and it is important that activists speak directly to the workers. We also distributed hundreds of leaflets at the actions in Blaine, Washington and Detroit. 3,000 demonstrators from both sides of the US-Canadian border showed up at Peace Arch Park near Blaine, Washington, and a section of the activists also blockaded the border. In Detroit, several hundred demonstrators marched in the downtown area. Especially notable was the presence of Colombians among the speakers at the demo, and they denounced the U.S.-backed "Plan Colombia" as a war on the Colombian people. Below we reprint the leaflets prepared by the Communist Voice Organization for these actions.
* Protest the anti-worker Free Trade Area of the Americas! April 21, noon, Hart Plaza/Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan
* Seattle Communist Study Group leaflet against the Summit of the Americas, for the Blaine, Washington demo on the April 21-22 weekend
. Also see material from the previous Communist Voice about planning for the Quebec City action:
* About planning for the Quebec City demo of April 2001 against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas -- Report on the New England Global Action Conference, Nov. 12-12, by Thomas (34K) and
* "Oppose free trade and protectionism! Capitalism is the problem, class struggle is the answer"
(Leaflet distributed at NEGAN conference)
Last modified: October 15, 2001.