To fight global capitalist crisis
People’s Summit discusses issues, action plan
Published Jun 13, 2009 10:13 AM
Under a canopied “tent city” in the Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza
across from the United Nations, more than 200 individuals and 35 organizations
gathered for the People’s Economic Summit on May 31. The gathering was
called by the Bail Out the People Movement to discuss the theme “Another
World is Urgently Needed ... But We Must Fight for It!”
May 31 plenary session.
WW photo: LeiLani Dowell
The conference had been scheduled to take place just before a June 1-3 U.N.
Conference on the Economic Crisis, a forum for the concerns of the 192 member
nations of the General Assembly. However, pressure from the powerful economic
countries forced postponement of the U.N. conference.
The postponement gave added significance to the People’s Economic Summit.
The event became a protest against the G20 governments, particularly the U.S.
and European imperialist powers, which conspired for months to weaken and
derail the U.N. economic summit.
Jamaican Ambassador Byron Blake, senior advisor to U.N. General Assembly
President Miguel D’Escoto Brockman, addressed the gathering. He expressed
his deep appreciation for the summit organizers and their objectives.
“The G20 countries have had three meetings at the highest level in 10
months to address the crisis, yet there wasn’t one where the entire
global community could participate. Another consensus is needed;
Washington’s consensus is not doing it,” Blake said.
“It’s clear they are not prepared to discuss the issues most
critical to the developing nations: food, energy, emergency housing and
finance—major systemic shortcomings.
“The burden for this crisis is borne by poor and marginalized countries
in the developing world which had no responsibility for creating it,”
Blake noted. “Stimulus packages are being introduced in developing
countries, with nothing for the rest who will be forced to take on additional
debt. As in the U.S., most of the global resources are going to those
responsible for causing the crisis and little goes to those who were innocent
“If we agree it’s a global crisis then all nations have to be
involved,” Blake said.
‘It’s all based on greed’
Ramsey Clark, winner of the 2008 Human Rights Award of the United Nations,
received resounding applause when he said: “The global economic system we
have does not work. We have to throw out the entire system. It’s broke
and you can’t fix it!
“I’ve spent my entire life dealing with state violence—cops
on the beat, armies invading someplace—but economic destruction is more
deadly. How many starve to death? How many have illness, sicknesses?
We’ve been exploiting our neighbors—the cause of colonial wars and
also world wars where the big guys fight to see who will get the spoils.
It’s all based on greed, but the greatest problem is the increasing
concentration of wealth.”
Bernadette Ellorin, secretary-general of BAYAN, an alliance of progressive
Filipino groups in the U.S., said: “Stimulus money is committed to the
titans of finance. The G20 have pledged more money to the International
Monetary Fund to build up this long discredited organization, but made no
provisions for debt cancellation to benefit the people suffering from the debt
Fred Goldstein, Marxist writer and author of “Low-Wage Capitalism,”
explained: “The crisis circling the globe is not just an economic crisis,
but a capitalist crisis, artificially created on the backs of workers worldwide
by a system that knows only one thing: profit.
“Autoworkers all over the Midwest and South are being told, ‘Shut
down 14 GM and eight Chrysler plants,’‘Shut down hundreds of
dealerships,’ ‘Take wage and benefit cuts.’ Why? Because GM
is in a crisis of profitability, and workers have to bear the burden of
GM’s failure by giving up homes, benefits and jobs.
“The property rights of capital must come second, the rights of workers
first! This was the message when workers at Republic Windows and Doors took
over their plant in Chicago. Workers’ rights must come before the rights
of the bosses,” Goldstein said.
The voice of First Voices Indigenous Radio Lakota Nation, Tiokasin Ghosthorse,
spoke on the growing impact of the global crisis on the environment and on
Indigenous peoples whose nations and languages are disappearing at an alarming
Other speakers on the panel included co-chairs Berta Joubert-Ceci and Sara
Flounders of the International Action Center, and Chris Silvera from Teamsters
Local 808 and the Million Worker March. Silvera said: “All of the
government forces are powerless when we rise up. History has shown us this time
and time again.”
A second panel chaired by Larry Holmes of the Bail Out the People Movement and
anti-war activist Alison Bodine addressed the fight-back strategies needed to
counter the crisis.
“If there had been big marches of working and poor people in New York
City against unemployment, foreclosures, utility cutoffs, it would have created
a better environment for the U.N. summit,” Holmes said. “Imagine if
there had been a general strike, sit-ins, or plant occupations.
“We should be in their faces demanding jobs. This country has to be about
creating 10 million union paying jobs—a WPA [Works Progress
Administration] program. Globally, 100 million jobs are needed.
“In four months we need to mobilize for the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh to
demand money for jobs and human needs, not wars and greed,” Holmes
concluded. “Also keep in mind October 3, which marks the one-year
anniversary of when Congress passed TARP.”
Kali Akuno of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and International League of
Peoples’ Struggle described the ongoing struggle of New Orleans residents
displaced since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “Almost four years later,
hundreds of thousands are still displaced. There is a standing order to remove
4,300 families from trailers in the Gulf Coast.
“The struggle in the Gulf Coast is a first wave, just the beginning of
what everyone else is now experiencing. Capitalism is getting leaner and
meaner. We have to step up to the plate and be broader and stronger.”
Monica Moorehead of Millions for Mumia and editor of “Marxism,
Reparations and the Black Freedom Struggle” discussed the importance of
exploring the relationship among political repression, racism, prisons and the
capitalist economic crisis.
“Just as the U.S. military around the world or the Israeli army in
Palestine serve to repress struggle, racism, daily harassment and police
brutality serve as occupying forces in communities of color at home,”
Moorehead said. “We need to elevate the issue of repression, cops and
prisons at the G-20 summit. We need to raise the plight of Muslim prisoners
targeted under the guise of the so-called fight against terrorism; the MOVE 9,
jailed for opposing the poisoning of people and the environment; Mumia
Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier and many more.”
Other speakers included LeiLani Dowell, who discussed the upcoming Detroit
People’s Summit and Tent City; long-time cultural activist, Vinie
Burrows; Dulphing Ogan, secretary-general of KALUMARAN, Alliance of Indigenous
Peoples in Mindanao; Brenda Stokely from the Million Worker March, who spoke on
the need to build a broader movement for social justice; Curtis Doebbler,
Nord-Sud XXI NGO based in Geneva, a human-rights lawyer who spoke on the
Palestinian people’s struggle against Israeli occupation; and the Rev.
Lucius Walker of IFCO Pastors for Peace.
Panels discuss specific struggles
Earlier in the day five breakout sessions involved conference participants in
wide-ranging discussions. The sessions included a panel on
“Workers’ Struggles in the U.S.” Participants discussed the
fight for jobs, the Employee Free Choice Act, foreclosures and evictions, the
fight for single-payer health care, and efforts to make unions more accountable
to the rank and file.
At a breakout group on “Racism, Political Repression and the
Prisons,” participants addressed how the lack of jobs has resulted in the
U.S. having the largest prison population in the world with majority Black,
Latino/a and Native prisoners, and growing repression against youth, immigrant
workers, and Arab and Muslim people. Workshop participants included activist
attorney Lynne Stewart and members of the New York Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
Coalition, Millions for Mumia, New York Committee to Free the Cuban Five, and
New York Friends of the MOVE 9.
Members of several youth organizations including Anakbayan, FiRE, Malcolm X
Grassroots Movement, Nodutdol, FIST, and the International League of Peoples
Struggle gathered to discuss the impact of the capitalist crisis as well as the
struggles against national, women’s and LGBT oppression, imperialism and
more. LeiLani Dowell of FIST told Workers World that the youths were able to
learn a lot from each other’s experience in organizing and education.
Another panel discussed “Struggles Against U.S. Corporate Power Around
the World,” focusing on the impact of the capitalist crisis, militarism,
environmental destruction and imperialist policies in Africa, Asia, the Middle
East, the Caribbean and Latin America. Participants included activists from
BAYAN, Haiti Liberte, Nodutdol, Pakistan USA Freedom Forum, Union of African
Workers-Senegalese, Cuba Solidarity-NY, Mobilization Against War and
Occupation, Al-Awda and the International Action Center.
At a panel on “Defending Immigrant/Worker Rights,” Carlos Canales
of the Workplace Project described the desperation of undocumented workers on
Long Island, N.Y. “With no jobs due to the economy these workers have
been asking me what they can do to get deported back to their homelands,”
Activists at the People’s Economic Summit agreed that there should be a
global response to the next G-20 summit. Accordingly, activists and
organizations across the world will be urged to endorse the call for protest
against the G-20 summit meeting in Pittsburgh, and to organize globally
coordinated protests during the summit in September.
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