Target: WTO: Sacramento to Cancun

WTO attacks water and agriculture. We attack WTO

The war on Iraq is over, but the struggle for control of the rest of the world is still raging. The battle pits a tiny fraction of the globe’s rich and powerful elite, using corporations as their weapons, and bodies like the World Trade Organization as their Central Command, against everyone else and the natural environment This summer, the front is in North America on the streets of Sacramento, California and Cancún, Mexico, where the WTO will be meeting.

Thousands of people are mobilizing to disrupt the WTO’s Fifth Ministerial Summit in Cancún September 10-14. Cancún is the first opportunity to directly confront the WTO since Seattle, when tens of thousands of people shut down the meeting and exposed the secretive, undemocratic WTO process to public scrutiny. After Seattle, the WTO had to have their next meeting in Qatar, a US-backed monarchy free of annoying demonstrators or pesky democratic participation.

In Cancún, the WTO won’t be able to hide from the people’s wrath. The Mexican people — especially hard hit by economic globalization, which has meant more corporate control, pollution, sweatshops and poverty — have been mobilizing to shut down the WTO meeting. Folks in the United States and Canada can help by going to Cancún.

But you don’t need to go to Mexico to resist the WTO’s centralization of power. In preparation for the Cancún summit, the United States has invited Ministers of Trade, Agriculture, and Environment from 180 nations to a pre-WTO meeting in Sacramento June 23-25. The meeting is intended to prepare treaty text for the agriculture portion of the WTO’s Cancún summit.

Agriculture may be one of the WTO’s Achilles heels, because the United States, Europe and many other countries are severely split over use of genetically modified plants and animals and farm subsidies. If agreement is impossible on agriculture, the rest of the WTO’s expansion will also be threatened. Thus, successfully disrupting the Sacramento meeting will powerfully set the stage for Cancún.

The US government hopes they’ll be able to push through agreements in Sacramento to open up the world’s dinner tables to corporate dominated, factory farmed mega-agra corporate food. Corporate forces are putting on a private “Expo On Agricultural Science and Technology” at the same time as the WTO meeting to push their agenda. The US and a “coalition of the willing” recently took steps in a WTO court to sue European Union countries which have been cautious about permitting genetically modified organisms in Europe. The struggle at the WTO isn’t only to save family and subsistence farmers from centralized corporate control — it’s to save the environment from pesticides and genetic engineering.

Sacramento is an amazing opportunity to refocus public attention from Bush’s agenda of war, tax cuts, fear and attacks on civil liberties back to our agenda — the struggle for freedom, self-determination and an ecologically sustainable future. During the war, tens of thousands of people in the Bay Area took the streets and shut down business as usual. Let’s build on what we learned and go one better by shutting down the WTO meeting in Sacramento.

The elite can only lose the Struggle in Sacramento, because they can only save the meeting from chaos by turning California’s capitol into an armed camp. So be it — ultimately the corporate capitalist world envisioned by the WTO requires open violence to enforce the systematic theft of labor power and natural resources. Let’s make sure the system’s violence is exposed so the whole world can see it. Just because the overt war in Iraq has ended doesn’t mean that the everyday war against the earth and the public has changed. The ordinary, everyday, secret war is claiming victims right now.

Thousands of people will use a diversity of tactics to disrupt the WTO in Sacramento ranging from militant, mobile direct action to legal protests to street theater to educational events. Sacramento is flat with warm weather in June — perfect for mobile tactics, quick disguise changes, bike actions, disruptive public sex, etc. Get together with your friends now and figure out how to be part of the struggle. With creativity, spontaneity, courage and humor we’ll prevent the WTO from proceeding.

On to Cancún

Trade ministers from around the world will be in Cancún to conclude agreements on services (water, health care, and education); agriculture; and intellectual property among other topics. Each new agreement concluded by the WTO transfers more power over the work we do, the way we live, and what we know to multi-national corporations. Under the WTO, these corporations gain power to overturn any local laws regulating labor, health or environmental matters as “unfair barriers to trade.” Thus, the WTO brings us even farther from a world in which neither corporations nor governments control our lives. In the name of freedom and the survival of the earth, it’s vital to fight the growth of corporate power and the expansion of the WTO.

The convention center where the Summit will be held is at the tip of a long strip of land boarded on one side by the ocean, and on the other by the Nichupte Lagoon. Two bridges connect this strip to the main land and downtown. Most of the workers who serve the tourist industry on the island live on the mainland, so the authorities will have to try to keep access to the island open during the meeting. But with only two bridges and perhaps tens of thousands of protesters, this could be difficult.

There may also be attempts to block access from the airport to the island to prevent people from getting to the meeting site. Cancún’s airport is on the mainland — served by a single three-mile, two-lane highway thickly forested on either side.

In Seattle, we had to surround a convention center that was accessible from every direction, requiring the subdivision of downtown Seattle by blockaders into 13 sectors. In Cancún, the tactical issues may be much simpler.

For Americans hoping to go to Cancún, one significant problem may be crossing the border. Although you can drive to Cancún from anywhere in the US in a few days or fly relatively inexpensively since it’s a popular tourist destination, it’s likely that the police will stop people who appear to be on their way to the protest.

Because corporate controlled free trade — and in particular the North American Free Trade Agreement — has been such a disaster for the average Mexican, resistance to the WTO meeting is expected to be strong in Mexico. Hundreds of Mexican individuals and organizations have been participating in planning the resistance to the Cancun meeting.

Nonetheless, participation in the protests by people from the United States and outside Mexico is also important. The chances for brutal repression of demonstrations may be somewhat less if it would mean attacking large numbers of US citizens.

Nurturing international solidarity against the WTO and in favor of a future controlled by people instead of corporations is crucial. When thousands of ordinary Mexicans and Americans march arm and arm against the power structure that exploits them, it will become clear that workers in the US and Mexico have everything to gain together, and everything to lose if they can be divided.

The protests in Seattle were powerful not because the media correctly conveyed the complex economic and social arguments made by the thousands in the streets — we know such messages won’t get through the corporate media. Rather, highly visible resistance to the WTO and corporate control are crucial because they demonstrate to ordinary folks everywhere that everyone isn’t united around a corporate future, and there are still opportunities to struggle against the ruling order.

Many people throughout the world are deeply dissatisfied with the life offered them by corporate control. People work meaningless, degrading jobs so that a tiny minority can get rich. The earth is being destroyed. The material abundance created by all the work and resource extraction is hollow — a million identical strip malls for the privileged western nations; a million identical slums and sweatshops in the third world. Existence is a vast prison without walls — the real decisions are out of ordinary people’s hands.

When we create images of passion, rage and a refusal to accept the life corporations offer us, we’re building a powerful vision of hope for something different. Visible opposition is our best hope to break the isolation and resignation that corporate society uses to control the future. We don’t need to passively accept our fate — people can struggle and build something better.