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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 victims.

“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 crisis.”

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 rate.

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,” Canales reported.

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.