"Democracy for all, the wall must fall"
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2001 15:52:18 -0400
Subject: Quebec coverage
From: Paul Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Bob Olsen <email@example.com>
Eighty thousand in Quebec challenge the FTAA
By John Bell, Socialist Worker April 23, 2001
QUEBEC CITY -- "Welcome to the revolution."
That is how Maude Barlow, head of the Council of Canadians opened her electrifying speech Saturday morning April 21, to 3,000 activists ina huge tent erected at the Quebec City harbour front.
As she repeated it in French, Spanish and Portuguese, the four principal languages of the Americas, the standing ovation roared louder.
Outside the tent, another 65,000 people, according to the Hemispheric Social Alliance representing almost all the trade unions and federations in Quebec and English Canada, together with environment and social justice activists were marshalling for a march through the city. Together with the thousands who were marshalling elsewhere in the city to challenge the
perimeter, up to 80,000 people were involved in actions that day against the FTAA.
The "Turtle-Teamster alliance" begun in Seattle had come to Quebec.
They were there to protest the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) and the increasingly transparent brutality of global capitalism.
The FTAA is officially a trade deal, aiming to create by 2005 a "free trade zone" encompassing 34 countries (all of the Americas except Cuba) and 800 million people. It would be the largest free trade area in the world.
But like the WTO, the FTAA is in reality nothing more than a corporate bill of rights -- a pact that aims to demolish labour rights and environmental controls, privatize social programmes and in general reinforce the capacity of corporations to increase their profits.
Anger against this pact brought tens of thousands to Quebec City, where from April 20 to 22, the heads of state of the 34 countries of the Americas (except Cuba) were meeting to further the progress on this deal.
As well as protesting the FTAA, they were there to show their outrage at the four-kilometer security fence running like a scar through this beautiful old city.
At 12:50 PM (Saturday, April 21) the march set off.
At the same time, on the other side of the city, several thousand students marched from Laval University toward the perimeter.
Thousands of workers and young people were already at the fence, braving the clouds of tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets, retreating only to advance again when the blinding clouds blew away.
The old city of Quebec is built atop a rocky cliff. As the massive labour march proceeded along its route at the bottom of the cliff, the sting of the pepper-laced gas reached the workers.
At one strategic point, the planned route of the labour march turned sharply away from the cliff toward the sports arena where a rally was planned.
Thousands of workers had other ideas.
They pushed through the line of marshals from the FTQ, the Quebec Federation of Labour and marched up the hill, union pennants flying, chanting "Democracy for all, the wall must fall" and "So-so-so-Solidarite."
They joined the ranks already there, taking the place of those exhausted by repeated gassing and running battles with lines of riot police.
In several places the hated fence was pulled down. At one section it was the "Black Bloc" with grappling hooks. At another, it was a combination of young anti-capitalists and trade unionists. Workers build these things; they sure as hell know how to tear them down.
At the site of one such victory, rather than advance on the rows of waiting police, protesters simply sat down on the fence, tearing it apart for souvenirs.
I was told that the television news commentator covering this event seemed surprised, as the cops clearly were.
"I guess they just wanted to tear down the wall," said the reporter hesitantly.
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The return of the Teamster-Turtle Alliance
By Paul Kellogg, Socialist Worker April 23, 2001
QUEBEC CITY -- The teamster-turtle alliance is back, bigger and stronger than ever.
It was this alliance between trade unionists and young anti-capitalists that gave the great Seattle protests their power.
The youth have the fire to spark a revolt. The workers have the power to shut the system down.
Since Seattle, we have seen union leaders throughout the world attempt to build a wall between the young activists and the union rank and file.
Union leaders in Canada attempted the same thing. The main day of direct action was scheduled for Friday April 20. The union march was scheduled for Saturday April 21. And the top union brass were insistent that the two streams should not meet.
But enormous pressure was building inside the ranks to ensure that the young anti-capitalists did not fight the police alone.
Steelworkers and auto workers announced that they would have members present on the Friday actions. Intensive discussions went on through the week between the organisers of the direct action and key union militants who have been working increasingly closely with the anti-capitalist movement.
Thursday night, the dam broke. At a press conference organized by several of the key anti-capitalist organizations, Hassan Yussuff, executive member of the Canadian Labour Congress, announced that labour would be forming an affinity group to participate in direct action. There was massive applause.
The next day, that affinity group developed into a demonstration of 2,000.
Some 8,000 students rallied at Laval University, about seven kilometres from the walled perimeter. The group split in two. Three thousand took the shortest route, directly to the wall. They were met by hundreds of robo-cops and volley after volley of tear gas.
But the cops and the gas could not stop the protesters. The wall came down, and only the presence of thousands of police prevented the crowd from gaining access to the inner city.
The second larger march of about 5,000 marched to the centre of the city, from the west.
From the east, the labour contingent formed up, initially 1,000 strong. It made its way slowly through the city, occupying intersections, chanting in English, French and Spanish. From every corner, people joined the march swelling its ranks to 2,000.
Mid-afternoon a huge cheer went up. We could see the flags of the students coming our way.
At the bottom of the hill leading up to the perimeter, the two streams met. Chanting "Solidarité", workers grabbed students in huge bear-hugs. Middle-aged workers and young activists alike had tears in their eyes.
And then in a wave, the now 7,000 strong march swept up the hill, along the top of the cliff, and to the perimeter.
Together the workers and students tore at the wall, and faced volley after volley of tear gas from the robo-cops.
That day, the wall of hate did not come down.
But it laid the basis for the thousands who the next day would break away from the 70,000 strong labour march and help the students tear the wall down.
And another, more important wall had collapsed -- the wall that had divided workers from radical youth.
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The trajectory of struggle
By John Bell, Socialist Worker April 23, 2001
QUEBEC CITY -- To see how the anti-capitalist struggle has developed in Canada, one has only to witness the trajectory of the Council of Canadians.
The group was formed in opposition to the first Free Trade Agreement negotiated between Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney, then Canada¹s Tory Prime Minister. It continued to grow when Mexico entered the agreement, creating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The CoC¹s political agenda was heavily influenced by Canadian nationalism, fearing the loss of Canadian sovereignty in the face of American corporate power.
The leading figure of the organization is Maude Barlow, a former political candidate for the Liberal party.
Together with her colleague, Tony Clarke of the Polaris Institute, an anti-free trade research group, Barlow began to examine international corporate globalization, in the process connecting with activists all over the world.
Barlow and Clarke led the fight in Canada against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), which was scuttled in the face of widespread international opposition.
Along the way, the CoC grew to become the biggest NGO in Canada, with chapters in most towns and cities across the country, and more than 100,000 members.
And a funny thing happened. They discovered big Canadian corporations especially big telecommunications and mining powers were thriving under NAFTA, and becoming some of the most predatory operators in the developing world.
For Clarke and Barlow, vestiges of Canadian nationalism and protectionism began to fall by the wayside, replaced by explicitly-stated internationalism.
They were front and centre in the protests in Seattle, and have just published Global Showdown, a handbook of the growing global anti-capitalist movement that is brimming with the enthusiasm and optimism that fuels that growing mood.
Not everyone in the CoC has followed the arc described by Barlow and Clarke; huge debates remain, and the pull of Canadian nationalism is still strong with many members.
But in Quebec, Clarke and Barlow are in the fore front of the struggle.
As I made my way up the narrow streets of the old town toward the fence, I met with Barlow, Clarke, French activist José Bové, and a delegation of CoC members.
We all stopped to put on our goggles and soak our scarves with vinegar, protection against the gas.
Barlow stopped only to berate a reporter who asked her if her actions meant she endorses "violence."
"Violence!¹ she said. "Violence is homeless people dying in the streets of our cities."
She pointed to the district behind the fence where the heads of state were meeting, rightly putting the blame for the violence on them.
Linking arms, Barlow and her friends marched toward the clouds of gas, straight into the anti-capitalist struggle.
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Bob Olsen, Toronto firstname.lastname@example.org