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Naomi Klein’s No Logo is an international bestselling phenomenon. Winner of Le Prix Mediations (France), and of the National Business Book Award (Canada) it has been translated into 21 languages and published in 25 countries.
Named one of Ms Magazine’s Women of Year in 2001, and declared by the Times (London) to be “probably the most influential person under the age of 35 in the world,” in Fences and Windows, Naomi Klein offers a bird’s-eye view of the life of an activist and the development of the “anti-globalization” movement from the Seattle World Trade Organization protests in 1999 through September 11, 2001. Bringing together columns, speeches, essays, and reportage, Klein once again provides provocative arguments on a broad range of issues. Whether she is discussing the privatization of water; genetically modified food; “free trade;” or the development of the movement itself and its future post 9/11, Naomi Klein is one of the most thoughtful and brilliant activists and thinkers for a new generation.
The coming-out party of a movement
"Who are these people?" That is the question being asked across the United States this week, on radio call-in shows, on editorial pages and, most of all, in the hallways of the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.
Until very recently, trade negotiations were genteel, experts-only affairs. There weren't protesters outside, let alone protesters dressed as giant sea turtles. But this week's WTO meeting is anything but genteel: a state of emergency has been declared in Seattle, the streets look like a war zone and the negotiations have collapsed.
There are plenty of theories floating around about the mysterious identities of the fifty thousand activists in Seattle. Some claim they are wannabe radicals with sixties envy. Or anarchists bent only on destruction. Or Luddites fighting against a tide of globalization that has already swamped them. Michael Moore, the director of the WTO, describes his opponents as nothing more than selfish protectionists determined to hurt the world's poor.
Some confusion about the protesters' political goals is understandable. This is the first political movement born of the chaotic pathways ofthe Internet. Within its ranks, there is no top-down hierarchy ready to explain the master plan, no universally recognized leaders giving easy sound bites, and nobody knows what is going to happen next.
But one thing is certain: the protesters in Seattle are not anti-globalization; they have been bitten by the globalization bug as surely as the trade lawyers inside the official meetings. Rather, if this new movement is "anti" anything, it is anti-corporate, opposing the logic that what's good for business-less regulation, more mobility, more access-will trickle down into good news for everybody else.
The movement's roots are in campaigns that challenge this logic by focusing on the dismal human rights, labour and ecological records of a handful of multinational companies. Many of the young people on the streets of Seattle this week cut their activist teeth campaigning against Nike's sweatshops, or Royal Dutch/Shell's human rights record in the Niger Delta, or Monsanto's re-engineering of the global food supply. Over the past three years, these individual corporations have become symbols of the failings of the global economy, ultimately providing activists with name-brand entry points to the arcane world of the WTO.
By focusing on global corporations and their impact around the world, this activist network is fast becoming the most internationally minded, globally linked movement ever seen. There are no more faceless Mexicans or Chinese workers stealing "our" jobs, in part because those workers' representatives are now on the same e-mail lists and at the same conferences as the Western activists, and many even travelled to Seattle to join the demonstrations this week. When protesters shout about the evils of globalization, most are not calling for a return to narrow nationalism but for the borders of globalization to be expanded, for trade to be linked to labour rights, environmental protection and democracy.
This is what sets the young protesters in Seattle apart from their sixties predecessors. In the age of Woodstock, refusing to play by state and school rules was regarded as a political act in itself. Now, opponents of the WTO-even many who call themselves anarchists-are outraged about a lack of rules being applied to corporations, as well as the flagrant double standards in the application of existing rules in rich or poor countries.
They came to Seattle because they found out that WTO tribunals were overturning environmental laws protecting endangered species because the laws, apparently, were unfair trade barriers. Or they learned that France's decision to ban hormone-laced beef was deemed by the WTO to be unacceptable interference with the free market. What is on trial in Seattle is not trade or globalization but the global attack on the right of citizens to set rules that protect people and the planet.
Everyone, of course, claims to be all for rules, from President Clinton to Microsoft's chairman, Bill Gates. In an odd turn of events, the need for "rules-based trade" has become the mantra of the era of deregulation. But the WTO has consistently sought to sever trade, quite unnaturally, from everything and everyone affected by it: workers, the environment, culture. This is why President Clinton's suggestion yesterday that the rift between the protesters and the delegates can be smoothed over with small compromises and consultation is so misguided.
The faceoff is not between globalizers and protectionists but between two radically different visions of globalization. One has had a monopoly for the past ten years. The other just had its coming-out party.
Capitalism comes out of the closet
My friend Mez is getting on a bus to Washington, D.C., on Saturday. I asked him why. He said with great intensity, "Look, I missed Seattle. There's no way I'm missing Washington."
I'd heard people speak with that kind of unrestrained longing before, but the object of their affection was usually a muddy music festival or a short-run New York play like The Vagina Monologues. I've never heard anyone talk that way about a political protest. Especially not a protest against groaner bureaucracies like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. And certainly not when they are being called on the carpet for nothing sexier than a decades-old loan policy called "structural adjustment."
And yet there they are: university students and artists and wage-free anarchists and lunch-box steelworkers, piling onto buses from all corners of the continent. Stuffed in their pockets and shoulder bags are fact sheets about the ratio of spending on health care to debt repayment in Mozambique (two and a half times more for debt) and the number of people worldwide living without electricity (two billion).
Four months ago, this same coalition of environmental, labour and anarchist groups brought a World Trade Organization meeting to a standstill. In Seattle, an impressive range of single-issue campaigns-some focused on controversial corporations such as Nike or Shell, some on dictatorships such as Burma-broadened their focus to a more structural critique of the regulatory bodies playing referee in a global race to the bottom.
Caught off guard by the strength and organization of the opposition, the proponents of accelerated free trade immediately went on the offensive, attacking the protesters as enemies of the poor. Most memorably, The Economist put a picture of a starving Indian child on its cover and claimed that this was who was really being hurt by the protests. WTO chief Michael Moore got all choked up: "To those who would argue that we should stop our work, I say: Tell that to the poor, to the marginalized around the world who are looking to us to help them."
The recasting of the WTO, and of global capitalism itself, as a tragically misunderstood poverty elimination program is the single most off-putting legacy of the Battle in Seattle. To hear the line coming out of Geneva, barrier-free trade is a giant philanthropic plan, and multinational corporations are using their soaring shareholder returns and executive salaries only to disguise their real intentions: to heal the world's sick, to raise the minimum wage and to save the trees.
But nothing does a better job of giving the lie to this specious equation of humanitarian goals with deregulated trade than the track record of the World Bank and the IMF, who have exacerbated world poverty with a zealous and near-mystical faith in trickle-down economics.
Excerpted from FENCES AND WINDOWS by NAOMI KLEIN Copyright © 2002 by Naomi Klein
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
I) Windows of Dissent
II) Fencing in Democracy:
Trade and Trade-Offs
Democracy in Shackles
The Free Trade Area of the Americas
IMF Go to Hell
No Place for Local Democracy
The War on Unions
The NAFTA Track Record
Higher Fences at the Border
Making—and Breaking—the Rules
The Market Swallows the Commons
Genetically Altered Rice
Foot-and-Mouth's Sacrificial Lambs
The Internet as Tupperware Party
Economic Apartheid in South Africa
Poison Policies in Ontario
America's Weakest Front
III) Fencing in the Movement: Criminalizing Dissent
The "Citizens Caged" Petition
Getting Used to Violence
Stuck in the Spectacle
IV) Capitalizing on Terror
The Brutal Calculus of Suffering
Kamikaze Capitalists parThe Terrifying Return of Great Men
America is Not a Hamburger
V) Windows to Democracy
Democratizing the Movement
Rebellion in Chiapas
Italy's Social Centres
Limits of Political Parties
From Symbols to Substance