Re: (en) Peoples’ Global Action May 18th, 1998


Richard Moore

5/19/98, Peoples' Global Action Secretariat wrote:
>Meanwhile, an incredible wave of repression is hitting Geneva: throughout
>the town, people are being stopped by the police at random, arrested and
>jailed for hours without any given reason - without judicial basis. Foreign
>persons which "do not carry enough money on them" (about 500 SFrs.) are
>registered for police records and then deported with a prohibition of re-entry.
>Many people got heavily injured by the police on Saturday evening, although
>they behaved passively. At least one young man from Geneva still is in
>intensive care due to inner bleeding.   The bicycle caravan "Money or Life"
>organized by WiWa Wendland in Germany was already stopped before reaching
>Geneva, all foreign participants were arrested, deported and are not allowed
>to re-enter Switzerland for two years. 40 Italians were arrested on their
>arrival at the train station in Geneva and also deported.
>We condemn these arbitrary acts of the Genevan police and justice. These
>arrests are clearly illegal. We especially protest against the detention of

Dear a-infos-d,

I believe there is more to be said about these events in Geneva.  I was
present at Saturday's "manifestation" -- a street parade which toured
across Geneva with colorful banners proclaiming the evils (ie, telling the
truth) about globalization, the World Trade Organization, et al.  I was
also present at 02.30 am the next morning, when the tear gas cannisters
began to pop over Plan Palais where the PGA folks were camped.

There were perhaps 20,000 people in the parade, and almost all were
dedicated to complete non-violence.  There was a very tiny minority,
however, who ended up throwing bottles at police, breaking windows, and
causing other damage.  Early in the day such damage was directed at
"multinational targets", such as MacDonalds, but later at night windows
were broken in small shops, on road-work vehicles, etc.

With this kind of information left out of the offical PGA report, I must
say that my confidence in the credibility of the report generally is
considerably reduced.  _If the various repressive measures described
actually occurred, then the small amount of random vandalism certainly
cannot be used as a justification, but the report above would lead one to
believe _all participants had "behaved passively", and that just isn't the

The fact is that a small handful of people -- ten or twenty at most, and
perhaps not genuinely related to the main demonstration -- were able to
cast the whole affair as a semi-violent event.   The newspapers reported it
that way, and the "word on the street" questioned the sincerity of those
who "carry banners against corporate power and then break windows of small

What could have been a grand statement to the city of Geneva by thousands
of citizens who have "had enough of globalization" instead became a
turn-off to the city, whose citizens were kept awake all night by the
buzzing of a police helicopter, and then had to clean up broken glass the
next morning.

During anti-war protests in the sixties, at least those I saw in
California, there were always monitors with arm-bands who marched between
the parade and the police, and between the parade and the windows.  At the
time I felt they were unnecessary, because the mood of the crowd was not
angry and violent, but jubilant and peaceful.  But so was the mood Saturday
in Geneva.  Now I realize that the monitors were for those tiny few who can
so easily spoil the event for everyone else, and give the police and the
city the excuse they need to crack down.

I hope PGA and others can learn from these experiences and take steps to
keep peaceful demonstrations peaceful in future, and hence politically

PGA has an interesting attitude toward non-violence.  As Sergio explained
it to me, there is a commitment to non-violence, and a "non judgemental"
attitude toward others who may choose other means.  I'm still trying to
figure out what that means.  If it means that people who live under
military dictatorships may need to employ armed insurrection, then I too
must remain "non judgemental".

But if it means that a few bottle throwers shall be "not judged" while they
ruin the effectiveness of the efforts of thousands, then I must part ways
with the PGA strategy.  Democracy is not about the agenda of the many being
set by a few, whether those few be fat cats in the G8 or the OECD, or
drunken kids who like to hurl bottles at police.  In my humble opinion, it
is the responsibility of those who organize massive demonstrations to see
that they stay peaceful.

There is of course another possibility, one that is suggested by the
militant tone of the PGA announcement, and its failure to convey the whole
picture.  That other possibility is that police repression is welcomed by
PGA leadership, due to the radicalizing effect it can have on those who are
unjustifiably arrested.  I'm only surmizing that this _might be the
strategy they have in mind, but if it is I think it would be a disastrous
mistake on their part.

Such a tactic would not be a mistake under all circumstances.  If armed
insurrection is the only solution, and if the state can only be seen as an
intransigent enemy (as perhaps in Indonesia), then perhaps such
"radicalizing" can speed the process of massive resistance in a useful way.

But in Western Europe and North America that just isn't a useful scenario.
The state apparatus is powerful, the latent citizen desire for stability
outweighs discomfort with capitalism, and the path of force-confrontation
is simply a losing strategy.  I can see fascism as an outcome of such a
strategy more easily than I can envision anything positive being achieved.

With their neoliberal revolution, the capitalist elite have broken their
two-centuries bond with the Western middle class.  It is this implicit bond
which has made Western imperialism so powerful, and which has made
revolutions in the West infeasible.  Now that the bond is broken the middle
classes are beginning to suffer along with everyone else, and this changes
the demographics of revolutionary potential in a profound way.

For the first time since the era of western "democracy" began, there is the
possibility of constructing a _majority coalition around the goal of
systemic change, overcoming corporate hegemony, and establishing a new
societal paradigm.  When you're in the majority, and you have the vote,
then you don't need to throw bottles.  You can take the high ground.   You
can win peacefully.

in solidarity,