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The Storming of Melbourne

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  • Clore Daniel C
    The storming of Melbourne Sydney Morning Herald Date: 31/08/2000 IN THE global village, it s the global game. Soccer is more than a sporting and cultural
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1 5:23 PM
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      The storming of Melbourne

      Sydney Morning Herald

      Date: 31/08/2000

      IN THE global village, it's the global game. Soccer is more
      than a sporting and cultural phenomenon, it's big business for
      some of the world's biggest companies. But dark secrets hide
      behind its glamorous veneer - like Pakistan's soccer ball
      industry.

      Notorious for using bonded child labour, Pakistani factories
      have for years been the target of the very demonstrators who
      will descend on Melbourne next month in a bid to blockade the
      World Economic Forum as a protest against globalisation.

      Pakistani children as young as eight were working long hours
      to earn their freedom, the United States Congress was told in
      1996. It heard of children sent to work by their parents, often
      to pay off debts. There were tales of sexual abuse and of
      supervisors using hot irons to sear cuts so that small fingers
      could go on stitching the balls.

      But the protests are having an effect. While Nike - the subject
      of consumer boycotts during the 1990s over labour practices in
      its shoe factories - is producing its new Geo Merlin ball in
      Pakistan, it is using a central stitching plant - monitored by
      head office and non-government organisations - where no-one under
      16 is allowed to work.

      Nike has long since abandoned the Indonesian factories that
      produced shoes and soccer boots after revelations of appalling
      working conditions. "We have lifted our whole level of corporate
      responsibility," a Nike spokeswoman says.

      But it is doubtful that such assurances will satisfy the hordes
      of students, unionists, anarchists, anti-capitalists,
      environmentalists who make up the S11 protest group targeting
      the WEF gathering. The tag "S11" derives from September 11, the
      first day when the politicians, businessmen, academics and
      unionists will gather at the Crown Casino.

      Allegations this week that Chinese factories were using underage
      workers to make and package toys for a company which supplies
      them to McDonald's for its "McHappy" meals was a reminder that
      the fight against child labour is far from won.

      If there is a common cause for this diverse group of demonstrators,
      other than a passion to protest, it is exposing the underbelly of
      globalisation and pricking the conscience of Western consumers
      besotted with global brands. They see the WEF as an opportunity to
      confront those they hold responsible for global economic injustice.

      In S11 there are no leaders, no hierarchy, no right or wrong view,
      just individuals in affinity groups who have come together to
      oppose the WEF. For months, various permutations of S11 affinity
      groups have been meeting each week to plan their part of the three
      days of action outside the casino.

      There's the Monsanto Clause, the "jolly fat men", the group of
      QUEER progressive activists who say "corporate greed won't save
      your ass", the Revolutionary Valley Girls declaring the "revolution
      will be silly", guerilla gardeners who plant seeds to free the food
      supply from corporate control, the feminist avengers, unionists
      "against corporate tyranny" and a myriad other groups.

      They've been building puppets, painting banners, creating street
      performances, preparing food, learning how to treat people affected
      by capsicum spray, making body armour and writing songs for the
      carnival-cum-blockade that will run from September 11 to 13.

      Anyone with a gripe against capitalism is welcome, except those on
      the Right. One Nation is banned, though there is little S11 can do
      if Pauline Hanson's supporters turn up.

      S11 is the latest in a series of anarchist-inspired anti-
      globalisation protests kicked off by J18, the mass demonstration
      against G8 - comprising the eight richest economies in the world -
      when it met in Germany on June 18, 1999. Since then, there's been
      N30 (more commonly known as the Battle of Seattle), A16 (the
      protest against the IMF and the World Bank on April 16, 2000),
      and M1, which celebrated May Day 2000.

      The next big mobilisation after S11 will be S26 when the the IMF
      and World Bank hold their 55th annual summit in Prague.

      Born of the Internet age, this new radicalism doesn't sit easily
      with the old bastians of left-wing warriors. To activists schooled
      in hierarchical, marxist-inspired organisations, S11's anarchist
      approach can seem like democracy gone mad.

      Phil Davey, a member of the Sydney S11 Coalition and an official
      of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU)
      which is helping organise up to 10 busloads of community activists,
      students and unionists to Melbourne, says tolerance has been
      required on all sides.

      "Students are into sitting in circles and discussing things at an
      insane length," says Davey. "But equally they would find the way
      we [the unions] operate problematic."

      Even veterans of more consensual-style organisations can find S11's
      affinity model frustrating. Cam Walker, a campaigner with Friends of
      the Earth, which has been battling the big corporations since the
      '80s, calls it "the curse of democracy, sometimes you feel like you
      are going back to scratch all the time". But he says it is also the
      strength that enables the Left to assemble en masse.

      And what of their target? The 30-year-old World Economic Forum is
      more a debating society than a world government. But it's a debating
      society featuring some powerful people - Bill Clinton, Tony Blair
      and Nelson Mandela have all addressed it.

      Microsoft chief Bill Gates will be at the Crown Casino for the
      conference devoted to Asia-Pacific issues, as will Eric Schmidt
      from Novell, and Masayoshi Son from Softbank. Australia's Prime
      Minister, Treasurer and assorted ministers will attend, as will ACTU
      president Sharan Burrow. Malaysia's union movement chief Zainal
      Rampak and a host of academics and other critics of the excesses of
      globalisation will also be there.

      Indeed, the managing director of the World Economic Forum, Claude
      Smadja, would be considered by many to have left-of-centre views.

      At the National Press Club earlier this year, he called for a
      stronger role for the State to combat the painful adjustment that
      globalisation brings to displaced workers, and to harness its
      opportunities.

      Labor MP and author of Civilising Global Capital, Mark Latham, is
      bemused by the drive to shut the WEF: "I thought the left-of-centre
      movement was all about tolerance," he says. "Trying to stop a debate
      about important issues doesn't strike me as particularly tolerant."

      James Goodman, an academic at the University of Technology Sydney,
      doesn't buy the softer image portrayed by the WEF: "Just as the
      Melbourne casino poses ... as a 'family entertainment' centre, so
      the Melbourne WEF meeting will be spinning the rhetoric of corporate
      responsibility," he says in a paper posted on the S11 Web site.

      Latham, for his part, is puzzled by the opposition to free trade at
      the forefront of the protesters concerns: "The greatest poverty
      alleviation of all time has been the Asian economic miracle, tens
      of millions of people have been lifted up," he says. "One of the
      many ironies about this whole movement is that it's organised
      through the Internet, arguably the instrument of globalisation."

      While many may scoff at the protesters, it would be wrong to say
      they haven't had an influence. BP, Shell and other corporate
      "nasties" targeted by the protesters have adopted new logos and
      ad campaigns that emphasise their civil and environmental
      responsibility. Companies such as Nike have cleaned up their act.

      A recent report by the Business Council of Australia and the Allen
      Consulting Group, Corporate Community Involvement: Establishing a
      Business Case, based on a survey of 114 big companies, shows
      corporations are vulnerable to the rising tide of community concern
      about the impact of globalisation which bolstered grassroots
      political activism.

      "Internationally the pattern is the same. Community activists put
      pressure on traditional institutions and develop movements that
      have the political power and logistical capacity to mount the level
      of opposition seen in 1999 in Seattle at the meeting of the World
      Trade Organisation."

      In Britain and the US, business is being asked to rebuild
      communities and be more responsive to "stakeholders", says the
      report.

      In Australia, 75 per cent of companies now think long-term business
      success hinges on involving the community. Another 10 per cent has
      developed community involvement programs because the companies
      believe they are obliged to give back to the
      community.

      A seachange in corporate attitudes? Or just a canny marketing
      strategy? In Melbourne in 11 days, that debate will be held on
      the streets and in the conference rooms of the Crown Casino.

      --
      ---------------------------------------------------
      Dan Clore

      The Website of Lord We├┐rdgliffe:
      http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9879/index.html
      The Dan Clore Necronomicon Page:
      http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9879/necpage.htm

      "Tho-ag in Zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo. Zodmanas
      zhiba. All Nyug bosom. Konch-hog not; Thyan-Kam
      not; Lha-Chohan not; Tenbrel Chugnyi not;
      Dharmakaya ceased; Tgenchang not become; Barnang
      and Ssa in Ngovonyidj; alone Tho-og Yinsin in
      night of Sun-chan and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna),
      &c., &c.,"
      -- The Book of Dzyan.
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