Call of Prague
After Seattle, it was the turn of Prague to tell the world that globalisation cannot go unchallenged. Prague proved, if nothing else, that the issues of corporate reform and increased social services have worldwide appeal. Marxists marched alongside Zapatista sympathizers. Czech environmentalists rubbed shoulders with black-hooded German anarchists. Activists from Greece and Turkey—yes, Greece and Turkey, together commanded the front line of a march blockaded by police and kept it calm. This was not the globalisation of multinationals, but ‘‘globalisation of human rights, workers’ rights and economic justice.’’
As Day One of the Initiative Against Economic Globalisation in Prague began, all was quiet and orderly. Leaders of nonprofit organizations held thinly attended public discussions. Fourteen thousand dark-suited bankers and politicians yawned through World Bank and the International Monetary Fund meetings with titles like ‘‘Building the Bottom Line Through Corporate Citizenship’’.
By late morning, however, activists had begun a three-pronged assault on the heavily guarded Congress Centre. One group of mostly anarchists and communists managed to snake its way through police barricades and get within yards of the bankers’ meeting hall. It remains unclear how the violence escalated so quickly, but fifty Czech police were injured in a bombardment of sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails. By nightfall, after activists had smashed the windows of a Mc Donald’s on Wenceslass Square, cops were again beaten back, this time by protesters wielding the policemen’s own batons. The day ended in a cloud of tear gas, with thousands of World Bank delegates being shuttled in buses, searching for the four-star hotels not besieged by young radicals. But amid the apparent chaos, there were signs of accomplishments. For one, pressure from the streets, building ever since Seattle, finally forced two traditionaly secretive institutions to let some critics in the door. Representatives of Transparency International, which
is calling for public access to World Bank and IMF documents, along with 350 representatives of nongovernmental organisations, were admitted to meetings in Prague (five years ago, only two NGOs were allowed in). World Bank president James Wolfensohn and IMF managing director Horst Kohler even met with NGO leaders in a public meeting presided over by Czech President Vaclav Havel.
Still, the substance of the new dialogue left much to be desired. ‘‘Understand that we are not a world government,’’ Wolfensohn told NGO leaders. ‘‘Very often poeple blame us for the politics in a country when they should really blame themselves.’’ Such defensiveness makes it hard to take seriously the World Bank and IMF claim that they want ‘‘to make globalisation work for the benefit of all.’’
The Italian Zapatistas and Catalonian Marxists have now returned home. Czechs have reoccupied their city. And the jails are mostly empty. But the Prague Fall is not over. The movement is globalised; critics have been admitted into the tent. And perhaps most important, politicians, central bankers and multinational chiefs are beginning to understand that corporate globalisation faces truly global antipathy.
Strangely enough, even the far left in India, not to speak of the established left, does not bother much about the impact of global mass organising. Their response to the Seattle episode was out and out passive. As for the protest in Prague, they even failed to notice it. Globalisation has created a new situation in which multinationals cannot be fought in isolation. Nor is there any possibility of re-birth of any international with communist tag in the near future. But non-communist left forces are emerging in every part of the globe. It’s now more easier than ever before to launch solidarity platform to raise voice against market forces. Globalisation by the corporate elite of the world is to be challenged on its own turf by massively articulating anti-corporate solidarity movements developing across the world.