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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Six Forum: May Day protests

  Click here to watch the forum.  


May Day anti-globalisation demonstrations are taking place amid tight security in cities throughout the world.

Extra police officers have been on duty in London, Paris, Sydney and Berlin, amid fears that there may be a "hardcore" intent on violence.

Those taking part in the May Day events this year include the Trades Union Congress and the socialist umbrella group Globalise Resistance.

Organisers say the two groups are increasingly coming together on issues such as privatisation, third-world debt and the environment.

What can May Day street protests achieve in your opinion? Have you been involved in or seen any protests taking place?

Nick Dearden of socialist umbrella group Globalise Resistance took your questions in a live forum for the BBC's Six O'clock news, presented by Manisha Tank.


Transcript


Manisha Tank:

May Day is increasingly becoming synonymous with protest, often of the anti-capitalist type. But do these protests just wreak more havoc on what already seems to be a rather crazy world.

You've been sending in your questions and your comments on the subject and here to answer them is Nick Dearden of the socialist umbrella group or some would say, anti-capitalist group - Globalise Resistance.

Nick thanks for coming in. I know that you've been at the protest this year but there was a marked difference between this year and last year and you were at those also.


Nick Dearden:

Absolutely. This year it was an extremely celebratory atmosphere - very colourful - there were bands playing. But the big difference was that we had a march in conjunction with the Trade Union movement, in conjunction with people who were worried about the effects of globalisation in this country as well as people who were worried about the international situation and people making those links and that's a really new thing.


Manisha Tank:

So in turn you are saying that it was a colourful protest this year - it was more of a celebration of people coming together. Joe Gibson, England emails: I just want to congratulate Nick and Globalise Resistance on a joyous, peaceful march. The weather was glorious and arriving at Trafalgar Square to the strains of steel drums was a treat.


Nick Dearden:

Fantastic - that's absolutely how I felt as well. It was wonderful to get up - it was sunny weather - everybody was there, obviously very angry about what's happening in the world, angry about what's happening in this country. But I feel quite pleased to so many other people who agreed with us and who were saying that were going to do something about this.


Manisha Tank:

Although there were some who were very happy to be out there, there were others that perhaps disagree. Rob, UK: Aren't these demonstrations irrelevant? We will all have to go back to spending our money in the same shops tomorrow.

I think making the point that none of us can get away from capitalism as an idea.


Nick Dearden:

Well if you look at how social changes happened throughout history, it's basically like this - it's building mass movements, it's large actions, large demonstrations of people who say - we're not going to put up with this anymore - we're not going to put up with a world where basically you have the American President spending as much on his military budget as could basically feed everybody in the world, clothe everybody in the world, create a decent world, this year alone. People are fed up with these contradictions and that's how things have changed. That's how we're able to sit here in the studio today, people are able to watch TV at home, through people who've gone out on the streets in the past and done exactly this sort of thing and made it a celebration of that as well.


Manisha Tank:

In a way Huw Thomas in the UK sort of agrees with you - he asks: Is your organisation itself not a product of capitalism? The organisation would not succeed without using the internet, and hence the platform provided by Microsoft. Practice what you preach is a phrase which comes to mind.


Nick Dearden:

Well we use any technology that's created in order to further us or to further a better world for everybody - we're not anti-technology by any manner of means. We say that technological improvements throughout history have made it possible for people to live in the West to a reasonable living standard. We want to basically globalise that living standard - we want to use technology to make people's lives better rather than just to enrich the few.


Manisha Tank:

Another email here from David Feehan, in the UK - again attacking groups like yours and asks: Your groups are a pathetic attempt to undermine what has given countries like ours a strong economic foothold in the world today. Would you prefer it if we all lived in countries barely out of the Stone Age?

This is a lot to do with the perceptions of your groups.


Nick Dearden:

We'd prefer it if western countries with specifically large corporations and the elites in western countries would stop going into the developing world and taking food, taking out basic resources, enriching themselves and leaving people starving. Why is it that in the year 2002 we have 28 million people on the starvation line in Africa when food is being shipped out of those countries every year in order to make a profit in the West, where food is being dumped in the sea to keep its prices high? This is the sort of crazy world that we live in and we're basically saying - in conjunction with those people in the developing world, because there are millions of people marching today all over the world in a really global movement which is what makes this so exciting - that we're not going to tolerate this any longer.


Manisha Tank:

We have a text message from Andy: Why aren't these protesters at work?


Nick Dearden:

Well I took a holiday and I think a lot of people did as well. Many in the trades unions have holidays today but everybody I know took a holiday.


Manisha Tank:

Simon Wood, Bradford, UK: Given the increase in people who attend these events, do you think that the mass media can accurately report on them, or does it sensationalise the acts of a minority of trouble makers?


Nick Dearden:

Well it does of course - I was watching the bulletin early and I was very pleased to see that it was made clear that it was a minority of people who were causing trouble. But I was standing in Trafalgar Square and literally I'd marched from Clerkenwell Green - I'd been there this morning - and I've seen absolutely no trouble at all, all day.

I think that people do focus - both the police and the media - want to focus on the violence because it makes exciting pictures but that's not what's exciting about a day like to day. What's exciting is the sheer number of people who come out in agreement.


Manisha Tank:

There were incidences today of a little bit of a fracas, if you like, with the police and they did get out some of their riot gear when it came to Piccadilly and the Trocedero. Gemma, UK: If there is trouble, however minor, doesn't this alienate people from your cause?

With that we'd like to know, does a police presence sometimes encourage some of the violence that we see?


Nick Dearden:

Absolutely. When we went into Soho earlier on - I came here from Old Compton Street where you saw the pictures from earlier on - and literally all of the back streets, which we didn't see on the footage, were lined with police vans with police sitting in them in riot gear. This absolutely inflames people because people know that the reason they're out on a day like this is a completely just one. It's for a better world, where people can have decent living standards, where people can have secure jobs, where people can have enough food to eat and enough clothes to wear. So to see in a so-called democracy like ours, to see people ready, basically, for a fight just absolutely inflames people who are already pretty angry about the situation.


Manisha Tank:

But sticking with this theme of the violence that sometimes occurs with these protests and the things that we were certainly worried about a year ago. Ben, in the UK asks: Aren't you in a difficult situation? If the protests are peaceful no one notices, if there is violence you get the wrong sort of publicity and the issues are overlooked.


Nick Dearden:

That's definitely a point obviously. What we try and do is make sure that every demonstration we have, however large it is, is to make sure we get word of it around. There was an absolutely enormous demonstration on Palestine a couple of weeks ago that didn't receive that much media attention, despite the fact it was the biggest demonstration ever on Palestine in this country. We use our networks to try to tell people and try and enthuse people but there's all sorts of alternative media channels that are putting this sort of stuff out as well - but I agree, of course that is the problem.


Manisha Tank:

Jennifer Ethington, USA: Would you say that the protestors who advocate violence really believe they are achieving something worthwhile, or are they just yobs who have found an excuse to behave poorly?

I am sure in your time you've met people who've perhaps gone to the other end of the spectrum and haven't been peaceful.


Nick Dearden:

Absolutely but I think the point of demonstrations like today's is to say that we are absolutely condemning real violence in the world and real violence is keeping people away from their food. Real violence is keeping people who are suffering with HIV and Aids in southern Africa - the millions of people there who are suffering - keeping drugs from them that could help them live normal lives - basically to just enrich a few corporations and a few individuals - that's real violence.

What we're talking about is an absolutely tiny minority of people who basically smash a window or two - that's vandalism and I wouldn't even call it violence. In none of these protests has anybody ever been killed apart from of course in Genoa when the police killed that young protester. But I would say we're absolutely opposing the violence of globalisation and also the violence of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and it was the linking of those two things today that we saw - it's a return to the anti-globalisation movement that so many people and so many politicians were crowing about six months ago.


Manisha Tank:

Let's talk about your interests as a group. Let's move onto the developing world. Oliver Kamm, UK: A notable beneficiary of globalisation is the Third World. Developing countries need foreign capital in order to fund the current account deficits that arise when a country's investment opportunities exceed their domestic savings. How do you feel about your role in campaigning to keep the Third World poor?

With that we've had another email from Hugh Akston, UK: Capitalism is simply a corollary of freedom - the freedom to engage with others in mutually advantageous trade agreements. This is what has lifted the West out of the poverty in which the Third World still languishes. How do you expect citizens of Third World countries to do the same if substantial barriers are erected to their freedom to trade with the world at large?


Nick Dearden:

Well all of these economic theories are basically manmade constructs - we've created the world to operate like this and it's in the interest of a few people who've created the world to operate like this that it continues to operate like this. We're part of a global movement, so today there were millions of people in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America, also marching with us. We quite often take our lead from those movements and those people are saying - we don't want the freedom to be part of the World Trade Organisation, we don't want the freedom to take World Bank loans, we have enough food, we have enough basics in our country to feed and clothe everybody in our country. It's the economic system that the West has created that forcibly removes those resources from our country in order to make a few people in the West far richer than they actually need to be.

So I would completely dispute the fact that we're taking money out of the Third World. What we are arguing for is a democratic Third World, is a democratic globe where people can decide how the resources that they create are used and we want those resources to be used on making people's lives decent rather than basically making a few corporations very wealthy.


Manisha Tank:

That's exactly the point and it's not just the western world that has to play a role in doing that. This is something that our next email point out. Rob Coppinger, UK: Why do you focus your protests against western governments and companies, when surely it's the governments of the developing world who are responsible for not legislating against the child labour and poor pay that you're fighting against?

Let's face it, in some of the developing countries we've issues with democracy too.


Nick Dearden:

Absolutely but who's put those governments in the developing world in the first place - who supports those governments? If you look at where most of the United States open development aid goes - it goes to Turkey, it goes to Saudi Arabia, it goes to Colombia - really anti-democratic countries which use that American assistance, use American weapons - that they're often just given at the expense of the American taxpayer - to suppress democracy in their own countries. This is the sort of world that we're living in - this is exactly what we're fighting against. These so-called corrupt regimes are almost all regimes that have been put there by the West at some time or another to serve their interests and basically stop the people in those countries enjoying the resources.

If you look at Saddam Hussein, who's nowadays regarded as some new Hitler - Saddam Hussein was basically supported and put in place by western governments The ability for him to create biological, chemical and nuclear weapons was given to him by the British Government - was sold to him over many years at the British taxpayers' expense. This is the problem and that's why we focus our protests at the western governments because we're living in the West, because they call themselves democracies and because this is what we're doing to the world.


Manisha Tank:

What you're obviously being able to do is give the information and see things from this different perspective which often doesn't get onto the media and that's is what May Day is becoming. So finally, to wrap it all up, we have a question from Caz in the UK: It seems that providing people with lots of information that challenges their world view simply scares them off. What advice do you have for anti-capitalist or corporatist individuals and groups who wish to educate the public and the police without becoming confrontational doing exactly what you're doing?


Nick Dearden:

I think you've got to say to people that they're interest - ordinary people's interest is not in the system that we're living under at the moment. Although there may be people poorer than them in the world, the fact that we go out to work every day, that we're scared about our jobs, that we get laid off and that we have to buy mortgages and that our pensions are invested in the Stock Market and we're worried about our old age - this isn't in the interest of ordinary people, it's just made to seem like it is.

I think that since September 11th, to be quite honest, the reason the anti-globalisation, anti-capitalist movement has grown so incredibly is that suddenly people's certainties are shaken, suddenly people realise how the whole system works - that the system works by the West pulling resources out of the developing world and then going over and bombing people when they don't do exactly what western governments want them to do. I think that people have to be made to realise that their interests lie in the mass of people who are out there today.

See also:

01 May 02 | Europe
May Day tension in Paris
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