Anarchist globalisation after Prague S26

From J18 City of London, to N30 Seattle, S11 Melborne, S26 Prague; these are all dates that signify a growing movement of international opposition to capitalism. I took part in the S26 demonstrations in Prague which succeeded in disrupting the IMF congress there. The IMF was forced to cancel its evening entertainment's and so many delegates fled the city or stayed in their hotels that the last day of the congress was cancelled after the embarrassment of speakers addressing empty halls.

 The story of Prague is not simply the story of the events of the day, of the attempts to break through lines of riot police supported by water cannon, APC.s, tear gas, stun grenades and attack dogs. That story is largely told by the photographs on display here tonight and it is a story that will be argued about for years to come. [It is also on the web]

The success of Prague is also the story of months of preparation by our Czech comrades of which Vadim will talk and of groups and individuals in many countries building support for the demonstration. It is also the story of dozens of other actions held on S26 in all the major cities of the world and even here in Ireland in Derry, Cork and Dublin. It is also the story of border police trying to stop thousands of people entering into the Czech republic for the protests and of thousands of them getting in anyway. Some as in the case of 'Ya Basta' by blockading border crossings others by individuals getting maps and quite literally hiking across the border.

It is the story of the counter summit which ran the weekend before the protests at which hundreds of people took part in discussion about fighting neo liberalism and where we will go from here. It is the story of dozens of small and often informal meetings as people renewed old friendships and built new ones.

For anarchists this new movement is a vindication of the methods we argue for. It practises direct democracy with decision making by mass assemblies or delegates in what are often very difficult circumstances. It doesn't simply march up the hill and down again - requesting fair treatment from our rulers - but rather takes direct action to disrupt and indeed stop their proceedings. And within this movement anarchism has a massive popularity, the largest political sections of all these demonstrations have been people who choose to march as part of the anarchist block but a lot of the remainder of the demonstrators identify themselves either as anarchists or as sympathetic to anarchism.

The anarchist block in Prague which headed the blue march had maybe 3,000 anarchists on it from all over Europe and beyond. There were the flags and chants of anarchists from the Czech republic, Poland, Hungary, Greece, Turkey, ex-Yugoslavia, Germany, France, Spain, Britain, Sweden, USA and even Ireland. There was a sense of solidarity and common purpose there that many people never experience in a life time and most of us know only from films or books. And most of all at the end of the day there was a sense of achievement - of victory.

The IMF conference in Prague was heavily draped in the symbolism of the rule of capital and our struggle against that rule. The velvet revolution of 1989 started the collapse of the entire Eastern block and the triumph of market capitalism over state capitalism it represented. Many on the right and indeed the left who had seen the eastern systems as socialist saw this as the end of the socialist project, the 'end of history' as one commentator called it.

This collapse and the new imperialist adventures in the Arabian Gulf, Africa and the Balkans that followed it were seen by many as the start of a new era for capitalism. An era when the market would rule and where the people would finally be put in their 'proper place', as just another input in the production process with no more control then any other machine. The message of business and politicians alike to the worlds working class was 'There is no alternative'..

Anarchists who had always rejected the Leninist system as just another form of capitalism welcomed its collapse. But we understood that because our forces were so weak it would take time before we could start to overcome this capitalist triumphalism. And we understood that the struggle against the remnants of Leninism, the 57 varieties of 'revolutionary' parties that promise to lead the people to freedom - if only they will first learn to obey - was not yet over.

The birth of the new movement against capitalism has gone hand in had with the movement rejecting the authoritarian methods of the Leninist party. The first significant new revolt against the 'New World Order' occurred in Mexico on New Years Day 1994 when a rebel army called the EZLN rose up and declared 'Ya Basta' to the idea that 'There is no Alternative'. The Zapatistas rejected the idea of seizing political power on behalf of the people and instead talked of opening up a space in society where people could gather and make their own decisions. In the Zapatista communities in Chiapas this translates into weekly assemblies of the people alongside elected and recallable delegates making regional and day to day decisions.

The Zapatista rising attracted those interested in building a new opposition to capitalism. In turn the Zapatistas had a clear understanding that they were but one tiny corner of a global struggle against neo liberalism and could only succeed if similar movements came into existence elsewhere. So they called the 'First Encounter for Humanity and against Neoliberalism' in 1996 in the jungles of Chiapas. In turn this led to the 'Second Encounter for Humanity and against Neoliberalism' in Spain in 1997. I along with 3,000 plus other people attended these gatherings and they were hot beds of discussion of people from a bewildering array of struggles exchanging ideas and seeking a way to build a new opposition.

These events are only part of the story of where the new anti-capitalist movement came from but its true that in Prague I met many people who I had first talked with in Chiapas or Spain. Indeed almost all the non-anarchists I knew in Prague were people I had first met there. Likewise while watching the TV footage of I recognised people in obvious organising positions whom I recognised from those meetings.

But if it is essential to acknowledge the impact of new thinking that came out of the Zapatistas and the encounters for us it is also vital to state the story of this new global movement is also the story of the re-birth and spread of anarchism.

That is why we titled these meetings 'Anarchist globalisation'. Our movement in the last decade has grown like it never has before. The influence of anarchist ideas among the new generation of radical youth is enormous. This is not a growth simply in terms of numbers but also in terms of geography as new organisations are formed in many countries where there has never been or movement or where it has been suppressed for decades.

Which brings us to the future. It is essential that the methods of the anti-capitalist movement flow into countries like Ireland where as yet they have only had a limited impact. This means many things, for start it means we need to local struggles against the various aspects of capitalism that have a vibrant life of their own and a real independence. This means these struggles must be self-managed. Indeed the idea of self-management or direct democracy must be introduced also into the unions and community organisations as it never has been before. We need to end the practise of such groups being controlled by professional leaders or political parties who put their interests ahead of the members.

The anarchist movement in Ireland is very weak, it is almost non existent. We need to grow in terms of the number of activists willing to put work into the various struggles and into promoting the anarchist idea. We also need to build on the links that have already been developed through the organisation around the S26 demonstration with people who have some agreement with us. But this is not my task nor is it the Workers Solidarity Movement's, it is the role of all of us in this room. Prague has shown capitalism is not invincible, if people fight back they can and do win. The question is how can we build that fightback here in Ireland.

This was the text of the talk used for the post-Prague speaking tour in October 2000, we had also brought over one of the Czech organisers of the protests

WORDS Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )


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