J18 rally attacks corporate tyranny
By Erin Killion
SYDNEY — On June 18, a global carnival against corporate tyranny was held. It began here with an "Anti-Business Lunch", a rally of about 350 people in Martin Place. Speakers came from a range of organisations including Stop the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, AidWatch, Jubilee 2000, the Greens and Justice Action.
Speakers discussed globalisation and its effect on working people. Topics ranged from the International Monetary Fund's crippling policies towards the Third World and the Third World debt, to the privatisation of prisons and police racism.
Following the rally, the "Scumbags Tour" began. Around 200 people toured the central business district, visiting offices of target corporations. Speakers criticised Westpac's links to the Jabiluka uranium mine project, AMP's promotion of fossil fuel usage and shareholdings in the Timbarra gold mine near Tenterfield, and McDonald's exploitation of workers.
Criticisms were also directed at government departments like the Department of Corrective Services. At the office of the Daily Telegraph's right-wing columnist Piers Akerman, an effigy was burned as a statement against the mainstream media's role in upholding the interests of big business.
The day's events concluded with a "Friday night office party" at Circular Quay, where the participants partied in First Fleet Park.
While the events were informative and creative, J18 had some limitations. Posters, stickers and leaflets with the title "J18 — global carnival against corporate tyranny" covered the city in the weeks leading up to the day, yet a lot of this publicity did not mention when or where it was to take place, let alone any elaboration on what is actually was.
Like Reclaim the Streets — a movement popular in Sydney — J18 adopted the "parties-as-protest" tactic. Word of mouth was relied on as the main means of building the actions, which meant that the message didn't really travel beyond existing inner-city networks.
In order to send a clear message to the public, and involve as many people as possible, J18 could have raised concrete demands that working people could relate to and rally around. Canberra's J18, for example, publicised a clear focus: activists rallied at the Treasury and demanded that the Australian government cancel Third World debts.
Around the world, J18 was used as an opportunity to strengthen existing campaigns, and draw links between these campaigns and the broader injustices of capitalism. In Nigeria, J18 was used to build the campaign against the oppression of the Niger delta peoples by the Nigerian government and oil companies like Shell, Chevron and Agip. More than 10,000 people joined the demonstration in Port Harcourt.