MIA: History: ETOL: Newspapers & Periodicals: International Socialist Review: Issue 17

International Socialist Review, April–May 2001


Stop the FTAA


From International Socialist Review, Issue 17, April–May 2001.
Downloaded with thanks from the ISR Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.


THOUSANDS OF unionists and other social justice activists will rally in Quebec City and around North America to protest the latest bosses’ scheme, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

Quebec City officials certainly aren’t rolling out the red carpet for demonstrators. But they’re not sparing the barbed wire. The leaders of the self-proclaimed “democracies” of North and South America – Cuba not having received an invitation to this party – will meet as far away from “the people” as possible.

“As the proverb says ‘If you want peace, prepare for war’,” said Serge Menard, Quebec’s minister for public security. The Quebec City suburb of Sainte-Foy even passed an ordinance banning the wearing or possession of “a mask, hood, ski mask, or any other object of the same nature to cover one’s face.”

Inside their colonial fortress, behind 10-foot fences and a cordon of 5,000 police, the hemisphere’s leaders will try to patch up their differences long enough to push forward on their “free trade” agenda. And after the meetings, they will adjourn to fabulous corporate-sponsored parties.

The repression in Quebec and the “democratic” leaders’ disdain for the rights of free speech and free assembly confirms all of our sides’ criticism of the FTAA and its sponsors.

Despite the repression, the thousands of ordinary people who don’t think a secret treaty should be allowed to globalize, downsize and privatize their lives away will make their voices heard and not only in Quebec City.

Around the U.S., Jobs with Justice and other labor-based coalitions are rallying April 21–22 to “localize the resistance” to globalization. And in fundamentally important actions, activists will stage two cross-border rallies at the U.S.-Canada border near Vancouver, B.C., and at the U.S.-Mexico border at San Ysidro, Calif.

These labor actions take place in a political and economic climate different from the 1999 Seattle demonstrations against the World Trade Organization (WTO). When the “Seattle Coalition” of trade unionists, environmentalists, and global justice campaigners helped sink the WTO meeting, the U.S. economy was growing at its fastest rate in two decades. Unemployment hit its lowest level in three decades and the number of American workers joining unions increased for the first time in 20 years. And a Democratic president even mouthed concern about workers’ and environmental rights.

But not even two years later, the economy teeters on the brink of the first recession in a decade. Major corporations seem to announce mass layoffs each day. And no one can doubt that George W. Bush is the most anti-labor president in the White House since Ronald Reagan.

The multinational protest against the FTAA can lay down a marker for the struggles to come. A slowing economy will provide fuel to fires that the forces of “Buy America” protectionism – from right-wingers like Patrick Buchanan to union presidents – will be happy to stoke. Internationalist voices – who want to forge workers solidarity across borders – must make themselves heard now.

In the face of recession, “[p]ossibly the greatest danger is that the AFL-CIO and most of the unions will retreat into go-it-alone mode, both in bargaining and on political issues,” wrote Kim Moody in the March 2001 Labor Notes. “Last April’s lobby against [permanent normal trade relations] for China certainly had this character. The absence of the AFL-CIO and most unions from global justice mobilizations since Seattle, including the upcoming one in Quebec, has been noticeable. Given that one of the toughest political fights ahead will be around the Free Trade Area of the Americas, this isolation is self-defeating.”

That’s why the cross-border actions, especially the one planned for San Ysidro-Tijuana are so important. They hold out the prospect for future collaboration between activists on both sides of the border. They provide the concrete alternative to the kind of backward action that Teamsters leaders threatened – blocking Mexican truckers from entering the U.S. under the NAFTA-ordered tri-national deregulation of trucking.

The multinational protest against the FTAA can help to derail Bush’s relatively free ride so far. A successful and large protest on both of the U.S.’s international borders will serve notice that opposition to corporate globalization isn’t going away. With thousands rallying on the same weekend in Washington to protest Bush’s attacks on abortion and women’s rights, Bush will begin to feel the heat.

Activists will have the perfect opportunity to bring these two movements together at the planned demonstrations against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. in September. After the April weekend of protest, all roads should lead to Washington, Bush’s backyard.

Last updated on 27 July 2021