The Storming of Melbourne
- The storming of Melbourne
Sydney Morning Herald
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
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
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
"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
In Britain and the US, business is being asked to rebuild
communities and be more responsive to "stakeholders", says the
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
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.
The Website of Lord Weÿrdgliffe:
The Dan Clore Necronomicon Page:
"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),
-- The Book of Dzyan.