MIA: History: ETOL: Newspapers & Periodicals: International Socialist Review: Issue 19

International Socialist Review, July–August 2001

Mike Prokosch

Localize this!


From International Socialist Review, Issue 19, July–August 2001.
Downloaded with thanks from the ISR Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.


Mike Prokosch directs the Global Economy Program at United for a Fair Economy and coedited Change the World: Local Ways to Transform the Global Economy (Nation Books).

TWENTY-FOUR-year-old college graduates are leafleting the graveyard shift at Maine’s surviving shoe plants about job losses and NAFTA. In Connecticut, a youth-labor alliance is cornering congressional representatives at July 4 parades and telling them to vote against presidential “fast track” trade authority. This summer, the youthful globalization movement is bringing its message home and joining with the unions and community groups that have been fighting corporate takeover for decades.

For most mass media, the movement is an edgy white subculture whose body piercings and black masks push away majorities of all colors. But some activists have been trying to build bridges since the youth edge appeared in Seattle. “We have to work with people who may not know the word ‘globalization’ but they live globalization,” said Elizabeth ‘Betita’ Martinez in Where Was the Color in Seattle? Her influential article helped push movement bellwethers like the Direct Action Network (DAN) in New York to team up with radical youth of color like SLAM, and at last summer’s Republican National Convention they protested together against the prison-industrial complex.

A year later, DAN is going deeper. “Maybe we can’t just connect with the most radical organizations,” says Brooke Lehman, from New York DAN. “We’re thinking we need to focus on neighborhoods and work with community groups.” If they do, they’ll meet halfway.

Community organizers across the country are already creating dozens of ways to “globalize” their work. The post-Seattle movement offers them inspiration–a wave of resistance that has crashed elite summit after summit since Seattle. It also offers an analytic framework to overcome fragmentation.

It’s been obvious for decades that the enormous array of community and identity struggles across the U.S. doesn’t add up. On top of that, we’re discovering that John Sweeney’s labor movement doesn’t have the juice within itself to overcome half a century of arrested development.

Local unions and labor councils are talking to people with spiked hair and a lot of attitude. Community groups and global activists are fighting hospital closings and privatized prisons together. This is the moment not just to localize globalization, but to consciously create local-labor-global triangles across the country.

Such alliances will need more than logic and local appeal. It takes campaigns to build working relationships across the cultural chasms that have separated peace activists, blue-collar workers, and multiple communities of color for most of our lifetimes. What campaign can actually construct a local-labor-global alliance, community by community, where people actually live? Perhaps the one the other side is shoving in our faces: stopping the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

The proposed FTAA threatens every corner of our personal and social lives. It is the ultimate rule change, locking 34 nations into a corporate-dominated framework that will be very difficult to undo. The FTAA hits the U.S. much more directly than the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), or World Bank. It is about this country and this hemisphere. Fighting the FTAA helps us assemble a permanent “Seattle coalition” of students, steelworkers, and soccer moms.

The FTAA is an organizer’s dream: a campaign with a four-year timeline with negotiations concluding by 2005. “Fast track” is the first leg of this campaign. This massive threat to democracy suspends the rules so the president can rush trade agreements through Congress. The fight against fast track is the key to the FTAA.

If Bush wins fast track, he can bully Latin America into serious negotiations, then rush the completed treaty through Congress in 2005. If he fails, the negotiations will slow, perhaps collapse under a hemispheric grassroots attack. The U.S. antiglobalization movement recognizes this, and it’s putting together a campaign against fast track that’s broader than any since NAFTA. The AFL-CIO is convening biweekly national strategy meetings. Quebec returnees are jumping into local congressional pressure campaigns.

On the other side, the Business Roundtable promises it will spend whatever it takes to get fast track through Congress and has recruited the heads of Boeing and Caterpillar to lead its campaign.

The battle lines are clear: democracy vs. corporate takeover. But that doesn’t give us the material interest piece that any truly broad movement needs. What will the FTAA do to my job, my family, and my community? What injury will it add to the insult of lost democracy, and push me into action?

Well, how about a campaign against privatization–a campaign to defend, improve, and democratize essential public services? The FTAA would do to public services what NAFTA did to industrial jobs in the United States. It changes the rules to favor huge corporations and cuts down the unions in their way. Under the FTAA, education and water would become trillion-dollar “markets” where you must pay to play.

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The globalization movement needs a long-term campaign to provide local organizing hooks and to identify a common framework that unites local with labor and global work. The campaign needs to be broad enough to encompass hundreds of local fights, but focused enough to give logic to our collaboration. Identifying a campaign that moves the movement beyond “summit hopping” is one of the most urgent tasks it faces today.

Last updated on 28 July 2021