litlehan$ on Fri, 14 Apr 2000 01:09:29 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> [stop-imf] Naiman: Come to DC on A16


A16: Sweeney Crosses the Rubicon, and a New Movement Takes 
Its First Steps By Robert Naiman

As a participant in the planning for the April 16-17 mobilizations against
the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, I have this to say
about all the hype around the April demonstrations and the "new movement
for global economic and social justice": the hype is entirely justified.
Occasionally in this life one is blessed to observe and participate in
truly historic events. The decision by the AFL-CIO, the Steelworkers,
other major unions and Jobs with Justice to participate in mass
demonstrations attacking the destructive colonial power of the IMF and the
Bank marks a decisive turning point. The participation of Rich Trumka of
the AFL and George Becker of the Steelworkers gives the events a
completely different, more powerful political character. The AFL- CIO is
being swept forward by the social forces that organized labor itself did
so much to set in motion. Nothing will ever be the same. 

Recall that a mere two years ago, the AFL-CIO backed the Administration's
request for $18 billion in new funding for the International Monetary Fund
- a 50% increase in the IMF's resources, at a time when the IMF was under
unprecedented political attack, and when opposition to the
Administration's request for more money was a predominant vehicle for that
attack. By supporting the Administration's request, the AFL provided key
liberal political cover for the IMF and the Clinton Administration. They
saved the IMF and the agenda of the US Treasury Department. 

But now we can see that as a mere stumble on the long march of organized
labor to a leadership position in a new movement for global economic
justice. As a Jobs with Justice activist put it: "After Seattle, everyone
knows that the World Trade Organization is bad.  After the demonstrations
in Washington, everyone will know that the IMF and the Bank are bad. It
will be very hard for the AFL to justify supporting giving these bad
institutions more money." And this next stage in the evolution of the
AFL-CIO was made possible by the involvement of rank and file unionists
and students with good relationships with organized labor in the

But more is true. It is increasingly apparent that some of the top people
at the AFL, including most especially John Sweeney himself, fervently
believe in what they are doing. At the Jubilee 2000 USA demonstration last
Sunday, Sweeney gave the best speech of the American speakers. Unlike the
leaders of Jubilee 2000 USA, who refuse to discuss the role of the IMF,
the World Bank, and U.S. Treasury in imposing anti-worker "structural
adjustment" economic policies as part of the "debt relief" program
currently before the U.S. Congress, Sweeney vigorously attacked the
policies of the IMF and the World Bank, and their role in driving the
global "race to the bottom" in living standards. He explicitly linked the
destructive impacts of the IMF and the Bank in developing countries to
declining living standards in the United States. 

The significance of such statements from the head of the AFL-CIO cannot be
overestimated. The IMF and the World Bank are the most destructive
institutions in the world today. But unlike the WTO, they have no direct
impact on working people in the United States. The strong opposition of
the AFL-CIO to anti-worker "free trade"  agreements, under strong pressure
from the industrial unions that are being decimated by globalization, was
already a big step forward. But organized labor opposition to the IMF and
the Bank is a huge leap forward. 

Recall that in the 1980's, many of us organizing against U.S.  military
interventions in Latin America and elsewhere tried to make the case that
U.S. foreign policy was not in the economic interest of the majority of
people in the U.S. Now we have AFL-CIO President John Sweeney saying what
we were saying in the 1980s: that U.S. foreign economic and military
policy is hurting workers abroad and workers at home. 

The Mobilization for Global Justice has also been a learning experience
for non-labor groups. Many who were skeptical at first of the AFL's focus
on the U.S.-China trade deal have come to see its importance. The AFL-CIO
position is the progressive one: approval of the U.S.-China trade deal
would be bad for workers in the U.S. and bad for workers in China. But it
is also the strategically correct one - given the ironclad commitment of
big business and their Republican and Democratic allies to the agenda of
removing any restrictions on the flow of capital, nothing less than
vigorous opposition to bad trade deals will have any impact. 

The Mobilization has also been a learning experience of respectfulness
about diversity of tactics. During and after Seattle, there was a fair bit
of recrimination about window-smashing and other property destruction and
whether it was morally reprehensible or politically counterproductive.
Within the current Mobilization, however, there has been a respectful
dialogue about different tactics among different camps. This led to the
creation of a legally permitted demonstration, designed to facilitate the
participation of organized labor, community people, and other groups not
willing or able to risk confrontation with the police or association with
militant tactics in the context of this particular action. It also led to
a real dialogue with anarchist groups supportive of property destruction,
not based on dogma, moral condemnation, or marginalization but a real
dialogue based on shared values of political effectiveness and not
undermining the political work of others; and even though property
destruction is outside of the action guidelines for the Mobilization, we
expect that if property destruction does take place in Washington, it will
have a different political character than it did in Seattle. 

We have already won major victories in building and sustaining our
movement and delegitimizing the policies and funding of the International
Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The boycott of World Bank bonds has been
launched (, and many other political initiatives
have begun (see 

But of course, the more people come, the more history we will make. If you
are reading this on April 13, there is still time for you to come. Join
us. Make history. Come to Washington and help shut down the meetings of
the IMF and the World Bank; or join us for the most massive legal
demonstration against the IMF and the World Bank that has ever taken place
in the U.S.; or both. Be able to tell the story of how you were there when
students, environmentalists, trade unionists, and anarchists made history
and took on the most powerful institutions in the world. 

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