By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
Speech to the People’s Global Camp Plenary
Session on People’s Struggles and Resistance
Bali, Indonesia, December 4, 2013
In behalf of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), I wish to thank the organizers of the People’s Global Camp in Bali, Indonesia, for inviting me to to speak about issues relating to the WTO. I thank the Indonesia Peoples Alliance (IPA) in particular for giving us this opportunity to contribute to its Plenary Session on People’s Struggles and Resistance.
I am honored to be among the plenary speakers in this anti-imperialist gathering of hundreds of representatives of people’s organizations and social movements. This gathering is an effective counterpunch against the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is concurrently holding its 9th ministerial summit in Bali.
It is enlightening and useful to have an overview of the people’s struggles against the WTO and the people’s resistance against the neoliberal agenda in general, especially in the past two decades. I understand that most of you are interested, as we are in the ILPS, in studying and discussing an anti-imperialist framework for comprehending and analyzing the global impacts of the WTO and the neoliberal agenda, and how the world’s peoples are fighting back, at the global level and at various levels within their respective countries.
Three decades of neoliberal globalization and GATT-WTO have led the world to a state of fast-accelerating recurrent crisis, in which the US-led WTO has facilitated the further wholesale integration of entire economies into the world capitalist system. The system of world trade set up by the WTO has become a major tool to further open up Third World countries to worsening exploitation and plunder by the advanced capitalist countries, under the deceptive banner of“free trade”and the false promise of economic growth and prosperity.
For example, through the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) and the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Duties, the WTO has forced a grossly disadvantageous trade position on developing countries, which are greatly reliant on export-oriented agriculture and also desirous of protecting their own struggling domestic industries from the deluge of cheap imports.
Worldwide resistance against neoliberal globalization
Even before the WTO was established in 1995, the world’s peoples had resisted the dictates of its precursor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and the two other imperialist-controlled Bretton Woods institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. At the G7 summit in Paris in July 1989, an anti-G7 coalition organized a counter-summit under the banner of“We’ve Had Enough!”and held a 10,000-strong demonstration, which called for cancellation of Third World debt.
There was also resistance to imperialist-controlled regional trade blocs such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)—especially as their impacts greatly undermined the national economies of Latin American countries. The particularly dire situation of Mexico’s peasantry drove the Zapatistas, through the New Year’s Day 1994 Chiapas uprising, to become an early voice of the movement against neoliberal globalization.
The WTO’s inaugural (first) ministerial itself, held in Singapore in 1996, escaped the street manifestation of the people’s resistance. Since then, however, all WTO summits have been hounded by mass protests and counter-summits or alternative conferences within the host city, in the host country, or in other countries.
In 1998, for example, the People’s Global Action and other international initiatives focused their protests on the 2nd WTO ministerial in Geneva, on the G8 meeting in Birmingham, and on the 50th anniversary of GATT. The 1998 mass actions were concentrated in Europe, with most initiatives coming from European radical parties and trade unions, but already broad alliances emerged to coordinate related protest activities and organizations worldwide, including peasant organizations.
The year 1999 marked a watershed period, signified by the now-famous“Battle in Seattle”in which 100,000 people demonstrated during the 3rd WTO ministerial held in Seattle, Washington State in late November. The protestors battled with police in the streets of that major U.S. city, in militant resistance against the attempts of the U.S. authorities to disperse the mammoth demonstration. The Battle of Seattle was prefigured by the Carnival against Capitalism held earlier in June in Bologna and other cities.
I announced the formation of the International Initiative Committee for the establishment of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle at my keynote speech to the Anti-WTO People’s Assembly and March-Rally on November 28, the eve of the Battle of Seattle. The IIC was convened in January 2000 to rally major anti-imperialist and democratic countries in various to form the ILPS and struggle against the WTO and other imperialist agencies
In the period of 2000 to 2003, the popular resistance against the WTO and neoliberal globalization as a whole further broadened and deepened in all regions of the world. Not only the next WTO ministerials (the 4th ministerial in Qatar in 2001 and the 5th in Cancun, Mexico in 2003) but also other major summits of imperialist states and institutions were hounded by huge demonstrations and other forms of protest, often by people of various nationalities gathering for counter-summits in the same city hosting the official conference. Major march-rallies countered practically every G7 or G8 meeting, semi-annual IMF and World Bank meeting, annual World Economic Forum, and EU summit.
On the other hand, the people’s resistance was confronted with the phenomenon of the World Social Forum. The WSF emerged in 2001 and based itself in Porto Alegre, Brazil, supposedly as an“open space”platform for airing critiques against and alternatives to neoliberalism, and for promoting “global civil society”. In reality, it relied on undemocratic practices and imperialist funding to ensure the perennial presence of prominent personalities while excluding national liberation movements in its gatherings. It is in fact a joint project of US intelligence operatives under the cover of Ford Foundation, certain French Trotskyites, and certain social democrats in France and Brazil. Thus, for some time, it functioned to derail and coopt the growing militancy of the people, and to redirect this towards safe reformist channels that merely cosmeticized the world capitalist system.
From 2004 to 2007, the people’s struggle against neoliberal globalization intensified. The ILPS successfully carried out the Mumbai Resistance against Imperialist Globalization and War (MR 2004), from January 16 to 20, 2004 in Mumbai, India. It acted as counterpoint to the WSF which was held across the street in the same period. Many of the organizations represented here in the People’s Global Camp participated in MR 2004 to uphold the national and democratic rights and interests of the oppressed classes, nations, sectors, and the rest of the people who are victimized by the imperialists and by their puppets.
Anti-imperialist and democratic forces carried out mass protests against neoliberal globalization in so many cities. They coordinated on an international scale and launched sustained campaigns from year to year. They influenced other major political forces and encouraged some Third World governments to assert national independence. They struggled to counter, delay or block some of the worst agreements and proposals under the WTO and the neoliberal offensive. Amid the recurring crisis, they aroused renewed interest in the socialist alternative and in the possibilities of a new world without imperialism.
The 2008 financial meltdown shook the economic foundations and ideological premises of the world capitalist system and incited the world’s peoples to further intensify their resistance to neoliberal globalization and intensify their struggles. Promptly, the ILPS held an international forum of prominent economists in Amsterdam in January 2009 to analyze the crisis and make a strong call for the people’s resistance. We are now in the midst of this reinvigorated global mass movement and its increasingly marked anti-imperialist content. This mass movement has certainly advanced greatly in the last five years, and has spread further to more cities and rural areas of all regions of the world.
The international workers’ movement has undertaken May First rallies and marches to mobilize the trade unions and worker-based parties to fight for workers’ rights, especially in the face of wage and benefit cuts, unemployment, and austerity measures. In recent years, workers become more militant and have launched general workers’ strikes. Massive people’s demonstrations have become more frequent in the imperialist heartland of Europe and some North American cities. In Europe, the strike movement has become widespread and fierce in opposing the impositions of the so-called Troika composed of the IMF, the EU, and the European Central Bank. In developing countries, particularly those classified as “emerging economies”such as India, Brazil, and China, the workers’ and strike movement is also intensifying and inspiring to the peasant masses.
The peasant movement throughout the world has also waged mass protests against the WTO. These include the fluvial protest boats of Pamalakaya, the Philippine fisherfolk alliance and the case of a Korean farmer taking his own life in Cancun to protest WTO impositions on agriculture. The peasant masses have vigorously opposed the imperialist grabbing of land, water, and other natural resources, and the worst forms of feudal and fascist oppression. From the more populous countries of Asia to the resource-rich regions of Africa and Latin America, peasant and indigenous communities have been organizing themselves and waging persistent struggles against foreign monopoly land grabs, feudal land monopoly and warlord oppression, rural poverty, the food crisis, and the deleterious impacts of environmental degradation.
In several countries, workers’ parties have gone beyond leading the trade union movement and popular participation in parliamentary struggle, and have led armed liberation movements or preparing the ground for future armed struggle against the imperialists and local fascist regimes. Some of these armed liberation movements have persevered for decades in rural areas by relying on the support of the peasantry and effectively addressing their basic agrarian problems.
There are countries which are assertive of national independence and which allow their people to engage in mass movement against neoliberal globalization and WTO. The best of such countries are Cuba, Venezuela and others that belong to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América, or ALBA) in 2001. They actively oppose the FTAA and other similar so-called free trade agreements.
The governments in ALBA have opened up possibilities for their people and mass movements to resist neoliberal globalization. ALBA poses a challenge to the US and US-led regional blocs in Latin America and may serve as a model for other anti-imperialist states to follow in their own regions. But it remains to be seen how ALBA can consolidate itself and further expand.
Prospects for the people’s struggle
Looking back at the past decades of people’s resistance to neoliberal globalization and to the WTO and considering the possible impacts of a renewed neoliberal offensive that this Bali ministerial and the so-called Bali Package will inflict on the world, we are certain that the broad masse of the people will fight back with all effective forms of mass action. We can draw lessons from the experience of anti-neoliberal people’s organizations, movements, alliances, and campaigns and define the tasks for advancing the resistance to a new and higher level..
We in the ILPS offer the framework of a comprehensive anti-imperialist and democratic line of struggle, and invite other organizations and alliances to join us or coordinate with us in common campaigns and campaign platforms for the purpose of advancing the common cause and attaining mutual benefit. We are also open to participating in campaigns and activities initiated by other organizations and alliances.
While the broad global mass movement against neoliberal globalization should respond to each major international event such as multilateral or multi-stakeholder summits and other conferences, and further develop the capacity to hold globally coordinated actions, all positive forces must expand and consolidate their mass base at the national and grassroots levels. In particular, we should pay attention to regional or national issues generated by imperialism and neoliberal globalization.
The ever-worsening crisis of the world capitalist system is wreaking havoc on all countries, and the broad masses of the people have no choice but to resolutely fight back and move inexorably in the direction of a fundamentally new and better world. The masses, and they alone, can liberate themselves from the scourge of imperialism and create a bright socialist future for themselves. ###