World Economic Forum Met by NYC Protests

From January 31st through February 4th, workers, youth, environmentalists, and an assortment of activists welcomed the corporate elites of the World Economic Forum to New York City, with rousing protests of over 10,000 people.

The AFL-CIO trade union federation and UNITE (the garment workers union) organized a significant forum rally on January 31st in front of the Gap, with 1,000 people participating. The AFL-CIO organized the forum titled “Make the Global Economy work for Working Families,” with speakers from China, Mexico, Guatemala and the US speaking on the effects of globalization and working conditions. While the AFL-CIO did speak out against the destructive effects of corporate globalization, it was a half-hearted effort, done without energetically building for and participating in the protests against the WEF. By not endorsing the main rallies taking place on Saturday, February 2nd, they separated organized labor from wider layers of youth and workers. The AFL-CIO bought into the media propaganda that the protests would be “violent,” and maintained the call for “national unity” during Bush’s war.

The main rally was organized by the coalition Another World is Possible on Saturday, February 2nd, and it mobilized approximately 10,000 protesters, mainly young people. While primarily a protest against the WEF and its corporate policies, it also had a strong anti-war character.

The size and context of the protests were significant for the US anti-globalization movement. As one organizer stated in the Village Voice (February 12th, 2002): “After 9/11 everyone was saying that the anti-globalization protest movement was dead and buried. This proved that we’re not.” There was strong public support for the demonstration. The rallies were peaceful on Thursday, Friday, and early Saturday; the 201 arrests occurred after the permitted rallies had ended, during the direct action organized by affinity groups.

Socialist Alternative members explained the need for mass, peaceful, stewarded protests which give the police no excuse to stage provocations. Significantly, a section of young people at the rally were ready to engage in a more serious discussion about the need to build democratic structures in the movement, and about what kind of program and strategy would attract the millions of ordinary workers who are being hit by the deepening economic crisis. Members of Socialist Alternative participated at all the main rallies and demonstrations, distributed 2,000 fliers, and sold 250 copies of Justice.

Justice #29, March 2002