Sending a message to the WEF
February 8, 2002 | Pages 6 and 7
ERIC RUDER explains the importance of the protests against the World Economic Forum (WEF).
FOR WEEKS leading up to the protests against the World Economic Forum, the media ridiculed demonstrators. Global justice activists are "less known for their deep thinking than for their willingness to trash cities," New York Times columnist Clyde Haberman sneered.
But the 15,000 people who marched in New York last weekend--after a week of forums, rallies and actions--proved the pundits wrong. They showed their commitment to taking up the fight for global justice--and took an important step forward.
There have been larger global justice protests over the past few years--in Seattle, Quebec City and Genoa. But this was the first major U.S. demonstration to follow the September 11 attacks, which dealt the global justice movement a significant blow.
The protest against the WEF re-established the right--and the need--to speak out on the issues of global poverty, war and racism.
Some parts of the global justice movement that turned out for other big demonstrations were missing. For example, the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that balked at turning a planned September 30 protest against the IMF and World Bank into a mobilization against the war again played almost no role in New York.
And though the AFL-CIO called an indoor rally as part of the week of anti-WEF activities, it booked a hall that could only hold 400 handpicked staffers, guests and media. Rank-and-filers had to get themselves to the protests.
Nevertheless, the week of activities in New York gave thousands of people an opportunity to make their voices heard and overcome the isolation many felt as the right wing has gained momentum.
And throughout the march, there was evidence of how new developments--above all, the scandal of Enron's collapse and the uprising in Argentina against free-market policies--have helped to put wind back in the sails of our side. "They are all Enron, we are all Argentina," read one sign on the demonstration.
"There's been a perception that somehow we have to retreat, we have to step back," Jaggi Singh of the Montreal Anti-Capitalist Convergence told Socialist Worker. "For people all over the world, knowing that in the belly of the beast--and in New York City in particular--there are thousands in the streets to make a clear statement against the WEF and against war is very powerful."