Gerechtigkeit oder Barbarei.
Interkontinentales Forum vom 5. bis 6. Oktober 2000
Raj Patel arbeitet in zahlreichen Kampagnen gegen die Politik der WTO und der Weltbank. Er ist Mitarbeiter von SEATINI (Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Initiative) in Harare, Zimbabwe. Seine Arbeitsschwerpunkte sind die Auswirkungen und Formen der Internationalen Ökonomie aus einer südafrikanischen Perspektive betrachtet aber auch bezogen auf die Gender-Thematik. Daneben ist Patel Redakteur für das Web-Magazin Voice of the Turtle.
Patels geplanter Beitrag in Kurzfassung:
„Augenblicklich gibt es eine große Vielzahl von Formen des Kampfes innerhalb des Widerstandes gegen die ökonomische Liberalisierung. Einige Sozialbewegungen nehmen beispielsweise direkt die WTO ins Visier, da sie in ihr die Verkörperung des globalen Regimes des Kapitalismus sehen. Für andere Gruppen wiederum, die sich mit der Gender-Thematik beschäftigen, ist der menschliche Körper ein Ort des Kampfes und Auseinandersetzung mit dem Kapitalismus. Diese unterschiedlichen Ansätze existieren gleichzeitig innerhalb des solidarischen Anti-Globalisierungsnetzwerkes. Wenn aber wirklich Solidarität zwischen zwei beliebigen Bewegungen im Kampf gegen den Neo-Liberalismus möglich sein soll, so benötigen wir ein besseres und grundlegenderes Verständnis darüber, was Solidarität tatsächlich bedeutet und welche gemeinsame Verpflichtungen sich daraus ergeben.
Drei Männerbewegungen in den U.S.A., in Mexiko und in Zimbabwe, zeigen die Widersprüche auf, die sie sich ergeben, wenn der Körper als Ort des Kampfes gewählt wird. Ich frage deshalb danach, was für Arten von politischer Zusammenarbeit zwischen diesen unterschiedlichen Männerbewegungen möglich sein könnte, zwischen ihnen aber auch innerhalb anderer Gruppierungen des Widerstandes gegen die Globalisierung.“
Here is an abstract about Patel’s planned talk.
"There is a wide variety of sites of struggle within contemporary resistance to economic liberalisation. Some social movements, for example, target the WTO directly, seeing it as an embodiment of the global capitalist regime. For other groups, particularly those concerned with gender, the body itself is a locus of struggle against capitalism. These different loci exist under the same 'anti-globalisation solidarity network'. If solidarity between *any* two movements in the struggle against neoliberalism is to be possible, we need a better and more robust understanding of what solidarity means, and the responsibilities it entails. Three men's movements, in the US, Mexico and Zimbabwe, show the contradictions involved in seeing the body as a site of struggle. I ask what sorts of 'crossover' politics (to use Nancie Carraway's phrase) are possible both between these men's movements, and between them and other kinds of resistance to globalisation."
Patel über den Protest in Seattle
Raj Patel, anti-WTO activist
"Seattle -- It's a Gas"
"[The protests in Seattle] indicate the remaining damage that Marxism has done to the thinking of people."
"If free traders cannot understand how one nation can grow rich at the expense of another, we need not wonder, since these same gentlemen also refuse to understand how in the same country one class can enrich itself at the expense of another."
ITHACA, N.Y. Weeks like this don't happen often. I began writing this final diary entry on the plane out of Seattle on Friday, the last day of the conference. And at the time, it looked as if we'd had a good week, but that the WTO was lumbering toward an agreement, and that the 600 jailed protestors weren't going to be released any time soon. But, 48 hours later, we've won on all counts. The WTO has been eviscerated, and the political prisoners are free. This feels good. Very good.
There are a number of reasons why the talks failed, and the history of what happened won't stabilize for a while yet. Among the reasons I've heard are, first, that the EU and U.S. couldn't come to an agreement over agriculture. The EU came to the negotiating table with talk of how agricultural support for farmers does more than just "distort" prices -- these supports are actually a way of sustaining a rural livelihood which otherwise would be obliterated by the market. The code word for this within the WTO is "multifunctionality." The U.S. didn't agree with this, and after much haggling, the EU seemed prepared to drop any mention of this from the final negotiating text. The rumor is that when this was announced, French farmers kicked up an almighty fuss, so that by close of business in Paris on Friday, a split had occurred in the EU position. And when the day started in Seattle (which is nine hours behind Central European Time), the EU and the U.S. found themselves having to start all over again.
The agricultural differences are important, but I can't help feeling that, in the absence of any other difficulties, these differences might have been overcome. The further disagreement between Southern nations and the U.S. over labor and environmental standards might have been overcome too, with a little goodwill. But walking around the corridors of the WTO convention center, it was goodwill, more than anything else, that was in short supply.
The developing country delegates in particular had plenty of reason to be angry. Throughout their stay in Seattle, they've been patronized and treated with disrespect by their hosts. After a particularly condescending speech by Charlene Barshefsky, the U.S. trade representative, on Thursday, some Southern trade ministers booed. This may not sound like much compared to the action on the streets outside, but it is unprecedented in the history of trade negotiating. Trade diplomats are meant to be diplomatic. Booing, in the protocol of international relations, is the equivalent of a solid kick in the groin.
Among developing countries, it appears that the African nations were particularly marginalized. On Thursday, African trade ministers had a meeting to try to thrash out a common position. After about 45 minutes, the microphones in their conference room mysteriously went dead. And no one could be found to make them work for an hour and a half. (When the Teamsters' microphones died on Friday, they were fixed in five minutes flat. Odd that. A lot of microphones dying in Seattle. I'm sure it must have happened to the U.S. delegation too, but we just didn't hear about it. Something in the air, no doubt.)
One of the African trade ministers decided that, rather than wait around, he'd go to the committee on agriculture. The security guards at the door wouldn't let him in. The guards didn't doubt the minister's identity -- his identity badge stated very clearly that he was the minister of trade from Ghana. But they insisted that, to enter the room where deliberations were taking place, he needed an invitation. There is, of course, nothing in the WTO rules about this. All meetings are meant to be open to all member states' appointed representatives. The minister made an unholy racket in the corridor. The guards still refused him entry. Eventually, after a good 20 minutes, the minister gave up. When he returned to his hotel later that evening, he found a plain envelope under his door, with an invitation to participate in the agriculture panel. The invitation was unsigned.
So on Friday morning, the African trade ministers wrote a statement, in which they declared their anger with the WTO's negotiating procedures. They observed that an institution with unfair procedures must find it hard to claim that the rules it produces are equitable. The Latin American countries put out a similar statement, and both regions were supported by a range of Northern and Southern nongovernmental organizations.
The bitter atmosphere of the preceding days intensified as the U.S. and EU tried to revert to old habits and called a "Green Room" meeting late on Friday. The "Green Room" was a venue at the old General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) secretariat (which mutated into the WTO), in which powerful countries haggled over trade policy, and from which the South was routinely excluded. A couple of Southern countries were invited into the room, to preserve appearances on Friday, but it was impossible to pull together an agreement which everyone would sign. And so, with chants of "AF-RI-CA! AF-RI-CA!" faintly audible from the streets outside the county jail (where protesters had gathered in solidarity, and where information from inside the WTO was being relayed), developing countries made it politely clear that if they'd not been given a chance to participate in negotiating a text, they weren't in the mood to sign.
In the popular press, though, there seems to be an odd schizophrenia about why the talks failed. The three stories -- division within the EU over agriculture, U.S. insistence on standards, and new developing country intransigence -- are told as if the trade diplomats had fabricated these issues out of thin air to annoy their colleagues. And meanwhile, a world away, the protesters are beaten and tortured in the jails of Seattle. As if these two worlds weren't the same, weren't intimately related. But clearly, the division between the EU wouldn't have happened without French farmers. The U.S. wouldn't have been so reluctant to compromise over labor and environmental standards without the AFL-CIO and Sierra Club breathing down Clinton's neck. And developing countries wouldn't have been so confident without the tireless and unacknowledged work of dozens of NGO activists whom I saw brokering meetings between ambassadors, providing information, and, in general, agitating. The distinction between "high" and "street" politics is particularly unhelpful.
Spectacular victories aside, though, perhaps the most important victories have been more subtle than the release of prisoners and the disruption of trade talks. The possibility of solidarity between different groups, the realization that, together, groups can change the world, and can start the change by starting with themselves, is something that certainly I have never felt before. Not like this.
The feminist scholar Nancie Caraway in her book Segregated Sisterhood talks about the necessity of crossover politics. Crossing over recognizes that we're each coming from a different history and background, but that we need to respect each other's positions if we are to overcome the divisions that history attempts to drive between us. This week has been a first step in what I hope will be a more permanent politics of mutual respect and solidarity. Because it is, if nothing else, necessary. At the farmer's rally on Thursday, a black farmer from Georgia put this very powerfully. He said, "I don't suppose you folk know what it's like to be denied a loan for improving your farm because you're black. And I don't suppose you know what it's like not to be able to increase the size of your farm because of how the other [white] farmers will react. I don't suppose many of you folk know what it's like to be called a nigger. I get called a nigger a lot. But organizations like the WTO are going to make niggers out of all of us. And it's not like the shoe is on the other foot. It's that we're now all in the same shoe."
This attempt at connection was something that cropped up in the gender workshops held on Wednesday, about which I've been threatening to write for a little while. To be honest, I was hoping for more. It is obviously important to note the ways in which globalization affects women differently from men. There's an interesting paradox in the way neoliberalism works with respect to women's bodies. Trade barriers are being reduced at the same time as immigration and refugee policies in Northern countries become increasingly draconian. It is much harder now for people from the South to come north than it has ever been in recent history. It is, by contrast, much easier for the commodities produced by these people to come north. Trafficking women as laborers in maquiladoras (to read more, visit Global Exchange's website) or as sex-workers is a way of circumventing this -- the trade in women treats them not as people, but as commodities. Perhaps I'm missing something, but I only heard one or two people making the connection between the gendered character of globalization and the way in which women are treated in the home. And, as I wrote on Tuesday, this is one of the most pernicious power asymmetries exacerbated by globalization, because it is silent. We need to be making more noise about this.
But this grumble aside, there is much to be joyful about. I spoke to a labor activist who was in Chicago in 1968. He said that Seattle '99 was in many ways far more exciting -- "the range of groups represented, the camaraderie between the groups, and the sense of urgency seem more acute now. And people seem to know what they want a lot better. I am hopeful. You're lucky to be alive right now." I agreed.
The only thing that perhaps compares to the Seattle experience in my lifetime was the Rodney King riots. I ran into a young, homeless woman who had been in L.A. at the time. By her own admission, she'd only gone down to L.A. to "fuck shit up," but she did say that the atmosphere in Seattle was entirely different. She was well-informed on why the WTO was a pernicious institution. I even detected a note of pride in her voice when she was able to list three reasons why the WTO ought to be shut down. Right there, right there is what we've achieved this week.
"This is what democracy looks like" is a chant we used a great deal on the streets this week. Knowing enough to participate in a functioning democracy, and knowing that the democracy will listen, makes you feel proud of yourself, value yourself, in a way that I, for one, have never felt before. It's a shame that it's only now that many of us are starting to feel it. Better late than never, though.
We've a chance now, an opening, to start re-imagining our world. Not that we didn't have the power to do this before. But I think it's taken something like this for all us to realize just how much power we actually have. It'll take a lot of unsexy, undramatic, unspectacular organizing to make our dreams real. Seattle was, after all, only a first step. Other campaigns next year include the International May Day celebration and the NATO ministerial in Italy, as well as, of course, Earth Day 2000. The real transformations, the hardest battles, won't be fought on the streets of Seattle, or Milan, or at any spectacular gathering. They'll happen every day. In our homes, at work, in our practices and relationships. I don't for a moment imagine it's easy. I'm not even sure where to start. But it's great to be alive right now.