Summit of the Americas: Quebec City protests April 20-22 (2001)

The FTAA is coming to Quebec City. It brings with it, the head of every government in North America (except Cuba), 6000 cops (with tear gas and plastic bullets), a 4m high and 4km long "security" fence, a freshly emptied prison for up to 800 political prisoners, and the possibility of the largest youth and worker mobilization since Seattle 1999. Members of Youth For International Socialism will be there in force, putting forward the Marxist solution to Globalization. Over the next few days we will include analysis of the movement plus eyewitness reports from the demonstration itself. The first of these is published here below. Watch this space.

Workers and Youth against the FTAA

Since the protests against the WTO in Seattle we have seen the development of an international movement against global capitalism and its institutions (IMF, World Bank, WTO and now FTAA). The movement follows the capitalists to all their meeting venues, from Seattle to Melbourne, from Prague to Quebec City, and spreads internationally. What we have seen so far is only the beginning...

In 1960 the richest 20% of world population disposed of an income 30 times higher than the income of the poorest 20%. Today they have 82 times more. Poverty has reached unknown dimensions. Although the world-wide production of food is high enough to cover the needs of the whole world population, 30 million people starve to death every year and 800 million are suffering from malnutrition. In the epoch of globalization the dependence of the countries of the south is bigger than ever. Through the policy of open markets and the privatization of key sectors, weaker economies have no chance of developing independently from the interests of imperialism. The ruling classes of these countries have completely surrendered in the face of imperialism.

The roots of the movement

Seattle was the beginning of a new period of anti-capitalist struggles. This movement is full of creativity and spontaneity, and because of this lots of youth take part in these protests. At the same time we can see a lack of understanding of the real causes of all this social injustice, all this destruction of the environment and the domination of capital.

The attempt to obstruct these conferences obviously has a big symbolic power. However, it would be a dangerous illusion to believe that we are able, in this way, to disturb the whole mechanism of the capitalist system. In the end we reduce our struggle simply to a confrontation with the police. And the police will improve its preparations from conference to conference. If this is the only perspective we can offer to the activists the movement will soon peter out. We have to be clear that only the methods of class struggle (like strikes) can bring this system to a standstill. Without the strength of the organized labour movement our protests will soon end up in a blind alley

The armed fortress in Quebec City and the oppression of dissent must be a warning to all about the lengths the Capitalists will go to defend their system. Youth, workers, and above all the trade unions cannot ignore this threat and it must be opposed by all means at our disposal. In 1968 in Paris the workers struck against oppression of student demonstrators and practically overthrew the State. The trade unions in Quebec must prepare for a similar outcome.

Is protectionism the way out?

Important representatives of the movement against "neo-liberalism" can imagine only a way out through a policy of protectionism and the regulation of the international financial system. They do not question capitalism as a whole but only "globalization". They call for higher taxation on financial speculation (for example the introduction of the so-called "Tobin Tax") and new barriers on trade. In the end these left-liberal economists are in favour of protecting the Canadian market from cheap raw materials coming from the "Third World". The experiences with protectionism in the course of the world economic crisis of the 1930s show that these ideas cannot be an alternative for the working class and youth. World trade would drop and this could spark off an international recession to the detriment of working people.

On the other hand the free trade policies imposed by the multinationals and by the major imperialist powers mean disaster for the ex-colonial countries. Far from resolving the concentration of capital and the growth of inequality, protectionism would only make things worse. The problem does not exist because there is trade but because this trade (be it "free" or "fair") is carried out following a capitalist logic and the principle of the maximization of profit. We do not want to protect "Canadian" jobs, pitting workers of one country against another - we want international workers unity against capitalism and decent jobs for all.

Expropriate the multinationals!

Radical problems call for radical solutions. As long as the key sectors of the economy are concentrated in the hands of a small number of multinationals it won't be possible to control the production and consumption in a democratic way. Today a small elite of owners of capital has the power to decide on the fate of humanity, ignoring all social, environmental and democratic standards. They have the power to do this only because the right of private property of the means of production is not challenged by anyone.

If we want a world without exploitation and oppression, without pollution and wars, we have to have control over the economy, the political system and the international financial system. This is only possible through the establishment of a global planned economy, democratically controlled by the workers and consumers. A society based on the satisfaction of needs and not on the maximization of profit. This is only possible when we expropriate the multinationals, banks and major industries.

The international working class has a key role in this struggle. Seattle was the best example of how the trade unions can make a qualitative difference when it comes to stopping the dictatorship of the capitalists. We, the Marxists, will fight within the organizations of the labour movement, the trade unions and the workers parties, for a revolutionary, anti-capitalist program and for a socialist alternative. The protests against the FTAA in Quebec City are a further step in the building of an international movement against this system of exploitation. Join Youth For International Socialism in our fight for a better world.

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