Jan Slakov

Date: Mon, 01 May 2000 11:09:51 -0400
From: Marty Jezer <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: rn: WHOSE MOVEMENT?

This was first published in the Brattleboro (VT) Reformer, Friday,  4/28/00,
for which the author writes a weekly column.


by Marty Jezer 

     The best thing about the recent protests in Washington
against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
was that the people who emerged as leaders are virtually all
publicly unknown.  The torch has finally passed from the veterans
of the civil rights, anti-war, and feminist movements of the
1960s and early 70s to younger activists able to bring fresh
perspectives to age-old struggles for social and economic

     The most intriguing aspect about this new movement is the
breadth of its support. The AFL-CIO is behind it as are, at the
other end of the political spectrum, Green Party direct
actionists. Many religious groups join in demanding the
suspension of third world debt, which, if done, would enable
debtor countries to invest more money in their own social needs
and infrastructure. I even know one stock broker, an advocate of
shareholder democracy and socially-responsible investing, who was
planning to commit civil disobedience in Washington. Sustaining
this kind of broad-based coalition is the key to political

     As long as the movement focuses on its opposition to current
international economic policy, it can stick together. A
globalized economy dominated by huge multinational corporations
invites opposition. These corporations have the resources to buy
governments and undermine legislative and regulatory authority.
They are accountable to no one: not the countries and the
communities in which they exist, not the working people who
create their wealth, not the consumers who buy their products,
and not the majority of shareholders who hold their stock but
have no real voting power. We are all pawns on the corporate
chess board; all expendable as corporate kings move jobs and
capital all over the world in order to maximize their own short-
term profit-making strategies. 
    The enemy is obvious; the solution isn't. There are strong
arguments to be made for free trade as opposed to high tariffs,
though, it should be recalled, our own country developed its
industrial prowess behind a wall of protectionist trade barriers.
Free trade does spur economic development, but often at the
expense of the environment and the local population. Is there a
way to encourage free trade that protects specific local
industries and does not exploit child and adult labor, destroy
communities and despoil the environment? 

     Globalization can be a force for human rights, tolerance,
and international understanding. It can subvert ugly religious,
ethnic and tribal traditions. But it can also create economic
tensions that exacerbate ancient tensions. A global economy needs
to be based on respect for human rights, one of which is the
right of working people to be paid a decent wage for their labor. 

    Other complex questions need resolution.  Do we give priority
to the economic conditions of impoverished third world people? Or
do the interests of our own people come first? Ideally, a rise in
the living standards in third world countries would create
markets for American products. But it's a complex issue not
helped by sound-bite solutions. Rhetoric and public relations
aside, the CEOs and financiers who run the IMF and World Bank (as
well as the World Trade Organization) have a lousy record when it
comes to caring about working people or protecting the

     Finally, how do we protect the environment while raising
living standards in undeveloped countries?  What political
mechanisms are needed to foster a sustainable economy?  And
further, who should development benefit: the indigenous
population or affluent first world consumers? 
    There are smart people working on these questions and no
shortage of innovative economic models. Some good sources of
information are <www.globalexchange.org>, <www.j2000usa.org>, and
<www.aflcio/globaleconomy>. But how to translate new ideas into a
political program -- especially when the forces of corporate
power own the media and dominate the political dialogue?
     The biggest challenge for the new movement will be to assert
itself into the political arena. Street demonstrations are
necessary to get public attention (when you don't have the money
to run million dollar advertising and public relation campaigns).
But the sad truth is that the new movement has no political clout
in the current line-up of political power. 

     Despite dissidents in their ranks, the two major parties --
and their presidential candidates -- are committed to unfettered
globalization run by the multinational corporations. Pat
Buchanan, the fraudulent reformer, professes to oppose the global
economy but he simply hates foreigners. His solution, an
isolationist and jingoistic fortress America, is a recipe for
fascism and economic depression. Ralph Nader, who is running for
President as a Green, gives the economic fairness, anti-corporate
movement a respectable, intellectual presence. Lacking money and
political organization, he'll have a difficult time just being

     The new movement has two immediate tasks. The first is to
clarify it's own position. I would emphasize economic democracy,
fair rather than free trade, and curbing the unaccountable power
of the corporate rulers. Absolutist ideological opposition to
free trade and globalization is difficult to argue and probably
wrong on merit. I would want the new movement to demand decision-
making authority on international economic boards by
representatives from labor and the environmental movement as well
as from third world countries. I would insist on strict protocols
concerning global warming, pollution, toxic material,
biotechnology, and rights of workers, including the right of
workers everywhere to organize labor unions.  

     The second task is to find a way to enter the political
arena. That means campaign finance reform, getting special
interest money out of politics; i.e., clean money, full public
financing. As long as money is the currency of political debate,
the rich and powerful forces of monopolistic global capitalism
will dominate the conversation. 


Marty Jezer is a free-lance writer who lives in Brattleboro. He
welcomes comments at <•••@••.•••>.

Copyright (C) 2000 by Marty Jezer 

Marty Jezer  *  22 Prospect St. *  Brattleboro, VT 05301 * p/f  802 257-5644 

Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words (Basic Books)
Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel (Rutgers University Press)
The Dark Ages: Life in the USA, 1945-1960 (South End Press)
Rachel Carson [American Women of Achievement Series] (Chelsea House)
Check out my web page:  http://www.sover.net/~mjez

NOTE from Jan: I just got to thinking about a couple of the issues you
raised in this article, Marty. The "free trade" vs. high tariffs
controversy... and later you mention the need for strict controls on
greenhouse gas production... It seems to me that if we wean ourselves off
fossile fuels our economies will NATURALLY (without needing tariffs) become
more local. Don't you think?

all the best, Jan
PS After I wrote the above note I ended up using that thought for a letter
to a local paper, which I will copy below.
Dear Editor,

As recent demonstrations in Seattle and Washington, DC are showing, people
are waking up to the dangers posed by corporate globalization.

We all know we face real economic and environmental crisis. Unbridled "free
trade" seems to be killing people and other beings all over the world. And
yet, we know that protectionism can spell economic disaster.

But why restrict ourselves to arguing as if "free trade" and high tariffs
were our only options? 

What we need are strict controls on fossile fuel consumption to save the
earth and our economy. If we were paying the true cost of fossile fuel
consumption our economy would naturally be much more locally-based.

For starters, Halifax should NOT spend $11 million on more parking for cars.
Any transportation money we have should go into helping us REDUCE our
reliance on fossile fuels!

Sincerely, Jan Slakov
Box 35, Weymouth, NS B0W 3T0  (902) 837-4980
(secretary, Enviro-Clare)