Antiglobalists smarter than are thought to be

The town of Calgary in south-western Canada has shrunk with fear. Shop owners are letting iron shutters down, and residents are not going to work. Will Calgary remain on the geographical map at all, wonders the man in the street.

The reason for a national spasm of fear is a summit of eight industrialised countries, opening on Wednesday in the rural community of Kananaskis, an hour's drive from Calgary. Or rather, disorders expected on this occasion, which are to be staged by anti-globalists. In July 2001, a 300,000-strong crowd of protesters successfully turned part of Genoa into ruins, and Seville was able to see the other day that antiglobalists are still alive and kicking.

Canadian security forces spent 100 million dollars to protect eight leaders and their entourage, deploying 6,000 policemen, squadrons of F-16 fighter planes and even anti-tank systems.

Calgary's medical services are poised to repel an attack involving anthrax spores and other biological agents. Neither medicos nor policemen draw any special distinction between categories of threats. It's all the same to them, whether these are terrorists or antiglobalists.

This universal official fear suggests to the common man the image of an antiglobalist as a ruffian holding a baseball bat or even a flask of bacteria in his hand. The world-wide movement of opponents to globalisation is presented as a criminal community.

Even our slight suspicion that antiglobalists may be smarter, more serious and far-seeing than they are cracked to be is nipped in the bud.

True, inside the movement there exists the so-called "black core" of ultraradicals and anarchists. It is these youths who crush bank and McDonald windows, and make out of cars funeral pyres for world capitalism. These groups have chosen street rioting as a method of attracting public attention. But this sort of extremism, it is believed, does not number more than 3,000 to 5,000. A multi-million majority of globalisation opponents is finding the vicinity of an obsessed minority trying, seeing in its debauchery the discrediting of a noble idea.

What is more, genuine antiglobalists reject the very term "antiglobalism". Their reasoning is: it is negative through and through. They are not at all inclined to deny out of hand "the process of forming a common world financial and information space," as is globalisation defined scientifically.

An antiglobalist does not need being lectured on the progressive significance of globalisation. Certainly, in some way it often revolutionises the sluggish process of development in non-western countries. Certainly, erasure of borders affords many, although far from all, greater possibilities for professional and cultural growth.

But what does the world pay for these benefits?

It is what they think are negative consequences of globalisation that scores of international youth and non-youth organisations are protesting stridently against, with their representatives sure to make vocal protests in the Canadian city of Calgary.

The process of globalisation is managed, for the sake of profit, by transnational corporations and international institutions that look after them, believe these critics. Globalisers break up barriers of national economies and cultures, while smashing on the way public and social programmes and ecological norms, and ultimately the rights of the working man and man generally.

In the long run philosophers of antiglobalism see the capture of all the Earth's resources by the "first world", that is in effect by the developed west. And a split of humankind into two races. One -- the winners -- would make the "golden billion" of new masters. Their prosperity will be supported by the sweat of the hoi polloi driven into a world ghetto and controlled, according to Orwell, if not by drugs then by ...

It is time to resurrect Lenin to issue a new call: "Antiglobalists of all countries, unite!" Although, as is demonstrated by an endless succession of actions timed to coincide with all sorts of summits, they, properly speaking, are already united. Including with the help of such a trademark attribute of globalisation as the Internet, which enables the movement perfectly to coordinate its ideology and protests.

That same Lenin could have pointed up one curious fact. The process of globalisation patently accelerated following the crash of the USSR. Architects of a new world order are hastening to complete the building while there is no one to take them in hand.

But time seems to be running short. The movement of genuine antiglobalists -- who are not street rioters -- is gaining experience, maturity and public sympathy. Despite its external diversity, it is increasingly rallying round the core, the ATTAC-France organisation formed in 1998.

ATTAC is the abbreviation of a French phrase, "For Tobin's Tax To Help Citizens." James Tobin, an American economist and Nobel Prize winner, as early as 1972 suggested taxing all financial transactions at 0.1 per cent, which could yield 166 billion dollars annually, let alone holding back currency speculation -- making it largely unprofitable. Tobin set out to create a sort of international body -- an alternative to the IMF and the World Bank, which would commit this money to combating inequality and poverty.

This was the dream antiglobalists found.

Today there is a Russian subsidiary, Democratic Control (ATTAC-Russia). It was set up in August 2000 by some free trade unions, part of women's organisations, and a group of progressive scientists. ATTAC branches, which exist in thirty states, are supplemented by a parliamentary network of the antiglobalist movement, which includes lawmakers in different countries.

Antiglobalism is not smoke from burning car tyres. This is the way of thinking of the new generation, backed up with increasingly rigid organisation.

Both reasons for and goals of the movement need to be promptly analysed by Group of Eight leaders at least, who are going to focus in Canada on global economic growth, development of Africa, and struggle against terrorism.

Incidentally about terrorism. Isn't it a form of the same protest against unequal and one-track globalisation? At least partly ...

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