- Created: Friday, 15 May 2009 10:32
FRFI 157 October / November 2000
$30m was spent preparing for the conference on top of the $90m spent on refurbishing the conference centre. Massive security was put in place. The FBI and 600 other foreign specialists, including many from the British police, spent six months training their Czech counterparts in surveillance and riot control. 11,000 police were drafted in from all over the Czech Republic, backed by 5,000 soldiers, armoured vehicles, water cannon and a motley collection of Group 4 security guards. Police helicopters buzzed ceaselessly back and forth across the city. There were three or four police armed with pistols, batons and stun guns on every corner, riot police down alleyways alongside every McDonalds and clumsily disguised undercover cops everywhere. For weeks, the mainly foreign-owned media ran scare stories in an attempt to whip up hysteria and turn the Czech people against the demonstrators. Schools were closed for the week and pensioners urged to leave the city.
In the week of the conference, the Prague authorities tried everything they could to put obstacles in the way of the protesters. Meeting venues were cancelled. At the border, groups of protesters were delayed or refused entry. Names were checked against police lists of `undesirables' from other countries. A trainload of 1,500 Italians from the Ya Basta contingent was held at the border until four people who had been at Seattle were deported. By Friday, the Czech authorities admitted they had refused entry to nearly 200 protesters. The actual numbers were far greater.
All these preparations, however, failed to prevent a huge display of anger directed against the representatives of global capitalism. The anti-capitalist movement, despite its disparate strands and competing ideologies - anarchism, environmentalism, situationism, libertarianism, communism, liberalism and reform socialism - could not be stopped. Its determination and resilience showed why it has become the focal point in the growing rebellion against the unjust and brutal capitalist system.
However, many problems need to be confronted and resolved if the movement is to confront the question: if not capitalism, then what, and how do you get there? Some of these issues resurfaced at Prague. Sections of the movement still believe that it is possible to have capitalism without the horrors of globalisation, and are prepared to be drawn into cosy collaboration with the enemy instead of opposition. Groups such as the Jubilee 2000 coalition, Friends of the Earth and other NGOs, who accepted Czech President Vaclav Havel's invitation to a forum of some protest groups and leaders of the IMF/World Bank, are examples of this trend. They want to dilute the anti-capitalist stance to one of opposition to, or reform of, the instruments of global capital such as the IMF, World Bank and WTO. They do great damage to the anti-capitalist movement. The imperialists know they can offer the reform or replacement of capitalist institutions with little loss and would welcome protesters being diverted into that debate.
There are other elements who, under the cover of socialism, want to moderate and contain the anti-capitalist struggle in order to preserve their alliances with social democratic and other `respectable' trends. Typical is the British SWP, who spoke from the platform of INPEG's Counter Summit. As an activist from Britain pointed out from the floor: `the SWP has played no part in the direct action movement in Britain, consistently votes for the Labour Party and calls Cuba imperialist - get real!'
In reality, the anti-capitalist movement in Britain was developed in opposition to the SWP and the official Labour movement that it cravenly defends.
The arrogant posturing of the SWP on the S26 march led it into physical conflict with the Italian Ya Basta group who were leading the fight against police lines. At the height of the fighting, it decided on its own accord to call people away from the demonstration to hold its own press conference and `listen to some speeches'. Socialist Worker, later reporting on the demonstration, said `the BBC on Tuesday night focused on the violence between police and some protesters. But this came after a fantastic demonstration of opposition to globalisation...' This is simply not true, as the battles with the police raged throughout the day. In saying this, Socialist Worker aligns itself with organisations such as INPEG, Jubilee 2000 and others who condemned the violence of the anti-capitalist demonstrators in Prague. Disassociating its organisation from the violence has a purpose, however. It allows the SWP to sustain alliances with those like George Monbiot who attacked the violence of the London May Day protestors in an article called `Streets of shame' and who, on the same weekend as the Prague events, spoke at an SWP-organised meeting during the Labour Party conference.
The Revolutionary Communist Group felt privileged to be part of this dynamic and vibrant demonstration against capitalism and its vulgar and obscene representatives who met in Prague. The vitality of the anti-capitalist movement lies precisely in its opposition to those traditional left and `respectable' forms of struggle that are associated with compromise and collaboration with the brutal enemy - global capitalism. There are many questions to be resolved, but they can only be answered in debate between those who participate in the real struggle, not by those who distance themselves from it.