M1: the fight against corporate tyranny continues

January 31, 2001

By Jody Betzein

In Melbourne last year on September 11, more than 20,000 people mobilised to shut down the World Economic Forum's Asia-Pacific meeting.

The meeting's purpose was clear — for the chief executives of the largest 1000 corporations to discuss how to continue to maximise profits at the expense of the environment and the big majority of people.

Government leaders like Prime Minister John Howard and Labor Victorian Premier Steve Bracks participated, eager to fall into line and implement the policies of the corporate elite that back their parties.

The S11 blockade was part of the growing anti-corporate movement in the First World that has mobilised in Seattle, Washington, Prague and Nice.

In 2001 activists are planning actions at every meeting of the corporate rulers, including the Quebec meeting of the heads of state of the Americas (except Cuba) to discuss expanding the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to Central and South America.

Activists who organised the S11 blockade, including members of Resistance, are now planning an action to keep the heat on the corporate rulers in all the major cities on May Day (M1).

Corporate robbers on the run

In just over one year since the Seattle protests, the revolt in the industrially developed First World countries against corporate globalisation has already spread waves of fear through capitalist think tanks and government policy machines.

The right-wing British Economist magazine recently complained that "the mighty forces driving globalisation are surely, you might think, impervious to the petty aggravation of street protesters wearing silly costumes. Certainly, one would have hoped so, but it is proving otherwise".

The Economist's editors went on to say that: "More generally governments and their international agencies — which means the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, among others — are these days mindful that public opinion is anything but squarely behind them, adjusting their policies and the way these policies are presented to the public at large."

Recently the IMF chose to rename its structural adjustment plans "poverty reduction strategies". But the content remains the same: conditions forced on Third World nations in return for loans, from cuts to social spending to privatisation of public assets.

That the IMF feels the need to rename their policies in an effort to deceive the public demonstrates they are clearly feeling the heat from the huge anti-corporate mobilisations.

Among capitalist policy makers and think tanks a division over strategy to deal with the new movement appears to have developed. Should the corporate rulers take a hard line approach as the editors of the Economist suggest and stop "apologising for globalisation and promising to civilise it"? Or should they continue with lame rhetoric about globalisation being the solution to Third World poverty?

Regardless of the line they take, the capitalist class is on the back foot, probably now more than any time in the last 25 years.

The corporate rulers fear the overwhelming solidarity among oppressed people that can occur when we collectively struggle for social justice. They fear that more and more people will join this growing movement. They know that our collective action can break through the apathy and alienation felt by so many. They tell us that we can vote for a better world, because money (of which they have lots, and we have little) wins election.

Because they fear us, the corporate rulers and their media hacks are falling over themselves to discredit as "terrorists" and "thugs" anyone who organises or participates in anti-corporate demonstrations.

M1: Let's make it our day

If you've had the opportunity to go to the annual Sunday afternoon May Day parade and rally in almost any Australian city you'll understand how politically conservative and mind-numbingly dull they have been made by the Labor Party politicians and pro-ALP trade union officials. But that's not how May Day was originally conceived.

The day has a long history in the international workers' movement and is tied to the struggle for an eight-hour work day.

Following the lead of Australian building workers who won the eight-hour demand in 1858, US trade unions set May 1 as the deadline for putting the eight-hour provision into effect. A massive strike wave on May 1 ensued from coast to coast. The capitalists struck back using police to attack demonstrations and in Chicago a bomb explosion was used as a pretext to open fire on workers.

In 1889 a conference of representatives of revolutionary socialist parties from across Europe held in Paris decided to make May 1, 1890 an international day of strikes and street demonstrations in support of the demand for an eight-hour work day law.

Since the 1890s, despite the pro-capitalist labour leaderships in most of the First World, May 1 has become recognised as a day of struggle and celebration of the oppressed and exploited. The new anti-globalisation movement in the First World gives us the opportunity to take back a day that belongs to us.

M1 groups are planning a blockade of stock exchanges in major cities: symbols of an inhuman and uncaring system that places profits before people. The protests will demand an end to Third World debt and the abolition of institutions such as the IMF and World Trade Organisation.

There is an alternative

The ruling rich and their politicians are enthusiastically lauding the benefits of corporate globalisation, telling us that it's going to make the world a better place.

It reality, it means subordinating every aspect of life to the drive to maximise corporate profits through:

* Privatising basic public services such as water supply, health care and transport, thus increasing the cost.

* Removing the right of workers to collectively bargain for better wages and conditions and instead playing one individual off against the other to see who is the most desperate to take a pitiful wage.

* Ending the hard won right to a living wage if you can't get a job.

* Forcing us to pay for education so we can work for a company that uses our skills and pays us a half of what the wage was 25 years ago.We don't have to accept these policies or the barbaric economic system that produces them. We can reject the status quo and fight for an alternative. If you have had enough of globalised poverty, help globalise the fight-back — join the M1 blockades!

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