Olivier de Marcellus, "Biggest victory yet over WTO and "free" trade. Celebrate it!"

Biggest victory yet over WTO and "free" trade. Celebrate it!

Olivier de Marcellus

People have been saying for some time that what the movement needs are
some real victories. But - it's a strange but frequent phenomenon - when
movements finally win them, they often go unnoticed. Partly, because
many people have already become discouraged or have moved on to new
struggles; partly because the media and dominant ideology avoid
recognising popular victories as such and partly because, within the
movement itself, a mistaken sort of pseudo-Marxism always immediately
revises history to try and show that whatever happened HAD to happen for
material, economic reasons and is somehow or another always in the
interests of capital ! For example, when we arrived in Seattle in 1999,
no one imagined that the negotiations could fail. Two weeks after, the
US Socialist Workers Party (who had totally missed the rendezvous) and
others published all kinds of subtle analyses to show that Clinton
actually wanted the WTO to fail...

Already this spring, Walden Bello pointed out a similar
paradox: for the first time since 1999, there was no mass demo in
Washington for the annual assembly of the IMF/World Bank -- precisely
when these two institutions are not only totally de-legitimised, but are
also now themselves in financial crisis! Why? Because all the oil
producing nations immediately took advantage of the rise in oil prices
to pay off their debts in advance, with the result that the IMF revenues
have already dropped by half and WB isn't doing much better (isn't
history difficult to predict!). Also, other governments have now learned
to avoid these institutions as much as possible. Chavez is even trying
to organise an alternative financial institution. And why did they do
these things? At least partly, because they have been "educated" or even
constrained by twenty years of popular struggles worldwide, to avoid the
ghastly consequences of IMF/WB neo-colonial impositions.

And now WTO too!!!

At the end of July, Pascal Lamy, director of WTO, was forced to announce
that the Doha round of negotiations was dead. A new round of
negotiations can probably not be envisaged for two years. Suddenly,
mainstream neoliberal economic experts were talking of a possible demise
of WTO in the media! For those of us who have been shouting "WTO kills,
kill WTO !" with Peoples' Global Action against WTO and "Free" Trade
since 1998 it was an amazing moment. Who would have thought that we
would make such huge progress in just eight years?In Geneva, we were lucky enough to be able to really celebrate it with a
spectacular naval and terrestrial demo. Philippine
fisherfolk had come to build traditional out-rigger fishing boats, which
sailed along the lake to WTO, accompanied by local yachts, pedalos and
squatters on rafts, while others, including a strong delegation of La
Via Campesina (particularly of Korean farmers, carrying a multi-colored
oriental coffin for WTO) marched in parallel. At the hour when Lamy was
supposed to offer a cocktail to the delegates of the General Council, we
were outside, shooting champagne corks at the building to toast the bad
health of WTO!

Of course, the media attributed the breakdown not to the movement, but
to the absence of concessions on the part of the USA. But without the
movement, no one would have asked them for concessions! In fact, apart
from the general rise in resistance which governments have had to take
into account, the key moment was at the end of June, when Lamy convoked
one of WTO's undemocratic "informal" mini-ministerials to make a deal
before the Council. But after two days, the Indian minister left the
meeting, saying that there could be no deal if the US would not reduce
the agricultural export subsidies that allow them to dump on the Indian
market. The US couldn't anger its farm lobby before the elections and
the Indian government knew that their farmers had thrown out the
previous government and would not hesitate to do so again, if they were
further sacrificed (officially more than 100,000 farmers have committed
suicide since the liberalisation began).

If there was one evident cause that has stopped WTO in its tracks, it is
the Indian farmers', the same organisations that launched PGA and the
global struggle against WTO, and who have always been its strongest
force. Our friend Yudhvir, of the national coordinating committee, was
in Geneva to tell us. For the last three years, the farmers movements
have been regularly convening huge demos all around the country. One of
the latest was to welcome Pascal Lamy to Delhi a short while ago. Some
50,000 farmers occupied the streets and a strong delegation basically
took over the meeting with Lamy, subjecting him to two hours of facts.
In the end, Lamy's only way out was to say that the Indian government
still had the possibility of using some tariff lines to protect their
agriculture! The head of WTO proposing protectionism!

All over Asia, the struggle against WTO remains a central goal. The
Korean farmers told us that their aim is a million people in the streets
this fall, to pull agriculture out of WTO and break the bi-lateral
agreements with the US. And although getting agriculture out is
obviously the first goal for all the organisations of Via Campesina, the
most popular spontaneous slogan today seems to be simply "Kill WTO!" As
Bello said to the demo, we should not go to sleep on this victory, but
use the time gained to make sure that WTO and its policies can not rise
from their ashes.

Obviously, the WTO, "free" trade and capitalism will counter-attack and
objectively the future of our earth looks bleak. But, the worst is never
certain and right now we can take up again the Seattle slogan: "We are