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<nettime> SAND IN THE WHEELS (n°32)

ATTAC Weekly newsletter - Wednesday 05/17/00


1- Confronting Global Capital In Washington, DC
2- European directive threatens Cameroon economy
3- Internet access to the UN Organisation decision.
4- Reinforcing citizenship
5- Using NAFTA to Grab Lucrative Market


Confronting Global Capital In Washington, DC

The April protests against the World Bank and I.M.F. were a remarkable
victory for people trying to restrain the power of these institutions.
The protests drew between 20,000-30,000 people. This fact alone was an
amazing achievement. These institutions have operated in obscurity
since they were created, with the vast majority of the people in the
United States being largely unaware of their existence. Prior to the
protests at the WTO meetings in Seattle, it would have seemed
impossible to mobilize a protest of this size.

As was the case in Seattle, the protest included a wide range of
organizations with differing agendas. At the start of the week, on
April 9th, there was a protest led by religious groups demanding debt
cancellation for the world's poor nations. In the middle of the week,
there was a large protest led by labor unions opposed to the current
U.S.-China trade deal, which ignores workers' rights and environmental
protection. There were numerous other protests, teach-ins, press
conferences (including one on the Tobin Tax, discussed below), and
other events leading up to the main protest at the World Bank-I.M.F.
meetings on April 16th.

The goal of many in the coalition that had organized the April 16th
protest was to prevent the meetings from taking place, in the same way
that protesters in Seattle had obstructed the WTO meetings last fall.
The Washington police force, backed up by several other police forces
and the United States National Guard, were determined not to allow
this to happen.

Just how determined they were became clear in the days immediately
prior to the protest. The police had apparently infiltrated groups
planning to commit civil disobedience to obstruct the delegates from
entering the building. Three days before the protest, the police
searched a house, making arrests and confiscated materials such as
handcuffs, which protestors had planned to use to make it more
difficult to separate them when they sat down in front of the
delegates. This was an interesting use of police resources in a city
where it is not uncommon for small children to be murdered by stray
gun fire.

Events became more interesting the day before the protest, when the
police shut down the "Convergence Center," the central meeting and
planning place for the protest. Stealing a line from the Guidebook for
Petty Tyrants, Washington's police chief announced that he had shut
the center because of "fire code violations," and boasted that this
action had probably saved lives. In response to legal actions by
lawyers for the protestors, the police eventually allowed the
protestors to reclaim some of the puppets and other material that had
been kept in the Convergence Center.

That evening the police decided to arrest 600 people who had been
marching in a neighborhood near the I.M.F.. Such marches are legal in
the United States, but apparently the police hoped to thin the ranks
of those who would try to obstruct the delegates coming to the meeting
the next morning. The arrest involved surrounding a large group of
protestors and then handcuffing them and shoving them onto waiting
busses, which would then take them to a jail to be processed. In their
sweep, the police managed not only to capture people who were
protesting, but also people who had been watching the protests,
reporters and photographers who were covering the protest, and several
tourists who just happened to be walking down the street at the time.

The next day, April 16th, the police had cordoned off a huge area
around the I.M.F.-World Bank buildings in order to keep protestors far
away from the meetings themselves. In spite of the large area covered,
there were still enough protestors to block every intersection where
delegates could be brought through to the buildings. Eventually, the
police were able to herd a couple of bus loads of delegates through
one of the intersections, although the bus was delayed for some time
before the police could clear a route through the protestors using
tear gas and batons.

Later that day, there was a large rally which showed the broad range
of support for the protest. In addition to representatives of
religious, environmental, and anti-globalization groups, several
presidents of major labor unions also spoke. There were several
representatives from progressive organizations in the developing world
who spoke as well, most notably, Oscar Olivera, a Bolivian trade
unionist, who had been a leader of protests which had just succeeded
in reversing a World Bank plan to privatize Bolivia's water system.

The events of April 17th were even more unusual. Since it was a
Monday, it would have been a normal business day in Washington. But,
to facilitate the process of bringing the delegates to the meetings,
the police closed off a huge part of the city. They shut down the
three buildings used by the Office of the President, the Treasury
Department, the State Department, and the Commerce Department, and
much of the city's downtown. Even with this huge corridor, the
delegates still had to be bussed in at 5:00 in the morning in order to
evade protestors.

This display of power was truly remarkable. The protestors had sought
to prevent the I.M.F.-World Bank meetings. In turn, in order to hold
their meetings as planned, the I.M.F.-World Bank shut down much of the
federal government as well as numerous private businesses. The
protestors could not have asked for a better display of the arrogance
of these institutions, especially since it would have been a very
simple matter for them to move their meeting to a location outside of
Washington. However, they were so determined to hold their meetings in
the I.M.F.-World Bank buildings, that the disruption to the federal
government and the city was of little consequence by comparison.

The protests have shaken these institutions far more than they ever
have been in the past. The leadership of the I.M.F.-World Bank is now
at great pains to explain that their whole reason for existing is
alleviate world poverty. They claimed that the second day of the
meetings was devoted to the problem of combating the spread of AIDS in
developing nations. World Bank President James Wolfenson even pledged
a commitment of "unlimited money" for this purpose. (It is unlikely
that this pledge of "unlimited money" will offset the cost of applying
patent protection to AIDS drugs in developing nations, as required by
the WTO-TRIPS agreement.)

There is a large segment of the United States public that now views
the I.M.F-World Bank with suspicion. Increasingly, they are asking why
U.S. taxpayers should be forced to support institutions that drive
down living standards around the world. The protests brought together
a wide range of groups that perceive a common interest in combating
these institutions. For the first time, the IMF-World Bank are being
forced to publicly defend their policies in the United States. For
example, the Washington Post ran a front page story on how the
IMF-World Bank policies cost Haitian rice farmers their livelihood.
The policy of the World Bank to dismantle Mozambique's cashew nut
processing industry was discussed in the editorial pages of the New
York Times. Time Magazine ran a headline that referred to the IMF as
"Dr. Death" for its policies in Tanzania. Even many reporters who had
previously taken the pronouncements of these institutions on faith now
view them skeptically. The world has been changed by these protests.

The Tobin Tax did not go unnoticed in the mix of events surrounding
the protests. At teach-ins, talks, and in material distributed at the
protest, the Tobin tax was frequently mentioned as one of the measures
constraining capital, which would place the world economy on a more
positive trajectory. Most noteworthy was the fact that two members of
the United States Congress, Peter DeFazio in the House of
Representatives and Paul Wellstone in the Senate, announced that they
would introduce resolutions in each chamber in support of a Tobin Tax.
They made this announcement at a press conference where a French
member of the European Parliament, Harlem Desir, and a member of the
French Parliament, Yann Galut, also spoke. A representative of the
United States Steelworkers spoke at this meeting, as well.

There is still very little knowledge of the Tobin Tax in the United
States, and it will be some time before it can get any significant
support in Congress. But the introduction of this resolution was an
important first step.

Dean Baker, co-director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research
and Robert Naiman, senior policy analyst at the Center for Economic
and Policy Research. and


European directive threatens Cameroon economy

Cameroon is a continental African country located between west and
central Africa with a surface area of 475,442 Km² and a population of
around 15 million. It stretches some 1200 kilometres from the northern
semiarid Sahel region to the southern densely forested equatorial
region and has the benefit of about 300 kilometres of Atlantic
coastline, in the area of the Gulf of Guinea. This explains the
diversity of climates in Cameroon, and accounts for its varied

Cameroon, like many African countries, came into existence by a quirk
of history. It was given its name by the 15th century Portuguese
explorers, who, sailing down the African coast, discovered vast
quantities of prawns in the river which is presently known as the
Wouri, but which they called Rio dos Camaroes, or river of prawns. But
it was following the Berlin Conference (November 1884-February 1885)
that Cameroon acquired its first territorial boundaries. The country's
first rulers were the Germans, who were driven out in 1916 by the
French and English, during the First World War, at the end of which
Cameroon was finally entrusted to the League of Nations. Cameroon's
administration was subsequently handed over to France and England, and
the country was divided into two parts, one belonging to France and
the other to England. The two parts were not reunified until 1961; one
year after the French part had obtained independence.

Around 1886-87, settlers introduced the cultivation of cocoa into
Cameroon, bringing it from the south west. The crop gradually spread
across the whole of the southern, forested part of the country where
the ecosystem is most conducive to the cultivation of the cocoa tree.
Small peasant-plantations sprang up across the whole of the southern
part of the country.

After the Second World War, the French colonial administration began
actively to encourage cocoa farming because of a strong demand for
cocoa from the French mainland. Cameroon received subsidies to
increase the surface area it devoted to cocoa farming from financial
aid organisations such as the FIDES (investment fund for the social
and economic development of overseas territories) and the FAC
(overseas aid fund). This support continued after the country's

In 1955, a fund was created (Caisse de Stabilisation) which would
regulate the price received by producers for their crop. Prices up
until that time had fluctuated, which made it difficult for growers to
organise and manage their resources.

As a consequence of this price regulation, production of cocoa
continued to increase from about 40,000 tonnes in 1945 to its peak of
around 130,000 tonnes in 1972. This provided vast resources for the
state of Cameroon, which set aside the sums needed for funding the
Caisse de Stabilisation. It was in 1973, that the government launched
its Green Revolution, which made agricultural policy with cocoa in the
forefront, the spearhead of the Cameroon economy.

It was from this point on that cocoa production truly became an
institution in Cameroon; owning a cocoa plantation became a status
symbol and top civil servants, from all the nation's regions, entered
in one way or another into the process of producing or marketing

Having become aware of the downturn in production after 1973, which
was caused by the ageing of plantations, the government created
SODECAO (cocoa development corporation) in 1974, which was to provide
the peasant-growers with a framework for the renewal of plantations.
Some years later, the Caisse de Stabilisation was replaced by the
ONCPB (national agency for the commercialisation of basic goods), the
function of which was to make funds available for all the major export
crops, in order to guarantee an acceptable price for the farmers
during periods of slump. Unfortunately, this money was misappropriated
by many of the country's officials, leaving small farmers in
precarious circumstances.

When the state of Cameroon understood that the future of cocoa
production was uncertain, it authorised liberalisation, which brought
an end to a trade, which had been ultra protected and reserved for
staunch supporters of the government regime. Liberalisation was
presented as a saving grace to the peasant-farmers.  But in fact it
led to the proliferation of unscrupulous rogue elements in the cocoa
trade, bringing about a decline in the quality of Cameroonian cocoa,
which henceforth no longer benefited from a fermentation period after

Faced with this situation, Cameroonian cocoa lost its favoured
position on the world markets, which witnessed the emergence of new
producers. Buying from the farmers became uncertain, and in
consequence, some buyers adopted the miserable trick of paying farmers
with forged currency, which, in turn, created serious problems.

The directive voted by the European parliament on 15 March 2000, to
reduce the proportion of cocoa butter in chocolate, in favour of other
vegetable fats, just adds insult to injury for the Cameroonian cocoa
producers who already have to contend with all the aforementioned
problems. This directive is likely to provoke widespread abandonment
of plantations, a slump in production, rural exodus, an increase in
prostitution and general insecurity, etc.

It must be remembered that cocoa producers in Cameroon, particularly
those who make their living from the activity, constitute a highly
vulnerable social group, who are for the most part illiterate, and
consequently lack the means to defend their interests. All the players
in the cocoa network, both national and international, have exploited
them for decades. It is for this reason that, - in the same way that
dishonest employers are forced to compensate employees that they make
redundant without due motive, - pressure should be exerted on all
those who introduced, developed or exploited cocoa farming in
Cameroon, to compensate the peasant-farmers who have been left to fend
for themselves.

It should also be stressed that cocoa production has been a leading
sector of the Cameroonian economy for a long time. Dismantling it
might well cause wide-scale havoc on a national level, and could
reflect on all the reforms currently being implemented in Cameroon.

Jean Nke Ndih
Co-ordinator for ATTAC-Cameroon
President of Ecology Party-Cameroon

Published in the Courriel d'information 132.
Translation Karen Newby & Barbara Strauss coorditrad@attac;org


Internet access to the UN Organisation decision.

>From the 5th to the 9th of June 2000, in New-York, the UNO is
organizing a special session of its general assembly with the
following title:  " Women: 2000: Gender equality, development and
peace for the XXIst century". This conference, also called "Beijing
+5" is the follow up to the 4th  UN world conference on women, held
five years ago in Beijing., China. The governing bodies of this world
are thus held to assess the effective application of the agreements
signed and the promises made in the "Beijing platform for action"
which aimed at improving women's  situation and their access to basic
rights. The 186 states involved will have to answer the following
questions : What is the current state of women's right in the
different parts of the world? What agreements have been honored and
what needs should be particularly addressed ?

In this assessment, different domains will be reviewed, including the
increasing poverty of women, the lack of respect of their basic
rights, the terrible situation of young girls, the health and
education deficit, the environment destruction, the always present
glass ceiling, the traffic of women, the consequences of
globalisation, or the involvement of women in peace negotiation.

The women of the world and their organisations will follow this
process with great interest. Its no longer time to participate, but to
listen and broadcast. The Onusian system does not allow any civil
involvement anymore.  Several preparatory regional conferences and a
three week long conference last march allowed the NGOs to lobby and
deliver alternative reports. But the system is locked up, and the
documents are cryptic, using a language impossible to understand by
most activists. However the meeting still remains an important one :
it gives the opportunity to the different NGOs to compare their
practice, or simply to inform of the often tragic situation in their
own country. It also highlights the importance of the women issue for
all countries. As such, we could see during this process the very neat
tendency by the G77 (unaligned countries), Syria and Algeria ahead, to
slow down by all means the progress. In consequence, the text that
will be presented at Beijing+5, which is a collection of all the
amendments of each state,  will not be finalised until the day before.
This greatly limits the room for diplomatic manoeuvre by the other
states, but more importantly by the NGOs which will be the last ones
to be informed. Another disturber imposed itself: The Pro-Life. 400
oddballs infiltrated the different workshops last march, especially
the ones for the youngs, the lesbians, and the right to health
protected reproduction, to minimize the work done by the activists
and, above all, to maintain the controversial place of the Vatican at
the UN. The religious (mostly Catholics)  and not simply the
fanatics - they're proud to say that they have members from different
persuasions -  are in the place to communicate largely, and to present
their propaganda as psalms.

The last issue at stake, and not the least, the first one in the sense
that it is transversal to all the questions, is the globalisation and
its consequences : poverty, destruction of ground water, the
appropriation of water by private companies, the end of traditional
farming, financial speculation, pharmaceutical industry rip-off, arms
race, children works, women traffic. Several aggressions that are
contrary to development, health, education, peace, life. Is it
necessary to recall here that women are the principal victims of

Open the debate to all (women and men) that are fighting against the
dictatorship of the market law.

Very insufficiently covered by the traditional media and the
institutions, these conferences leave no marks, and seldom hit the
street. Women's  organisations, of more than 80 countries from all
around the world,  whose main action is communication and information,
created a network "WomenAction 2000" with the goal to allow
participation by everyone to the Beijing +5 process. Through the web
site , the users can follow the latest news
concerning the conference in June.  (see also the article in the
Courriel d'information n°122).

The Penelopes, French member of the Womenaction2000 network, member of
the "World March of Women", and active member of Attac since its
creation will produce a one hour long interactive TV show live from
New York, every day at 1h30 GMT (visible at 22h30 French time) from
the 4th of June to the 9th.  One or several guests will comment on the
event in English, French,  and Spanish, and many reports will feed the
online discussion. Every users will be able to chat online, which will
nourish the following day program. As such, every one will
participate and contribute without being physically there. This is one
of the challenge of this  program. Besides, more foundational texts
and photos taken during the conference will be made available to the
public. Every program will also be available live and  stored on the
Penelopes' channel, Cyberfemmes.

Besides, WomenAction2000, will produce a daily newspaper edited by a
team of journalists coming from Asia, Africa, Europe, north and South
America. This paper will be published in French, English, and Spanish
and will be printed, and also put online both through a website and a
mailing list. It will be available in New-York every morning at 9 am
and the day before in the afternoon through e-mail. If you wish to
receive these news, please subscribe to the mailing list by sending an
e-mail to . Finally, WomenAction2000 will be run
in close partnership with FIRE (Feminist news radio) from Costa Rica.
This way, the news from Beijing+5 will be available on air. The FIRE
program can also be listened to through the Internet: .

Information is our strength. Women resistance on all fronts is the
cement of  all fights. The struggle against financial globalisation,
the death of liberalism, the overthrow of unique thought, the
promotion of counter-power, economical alternatives, the construction
of an equal society, goes through the appropriation by the citizens of
the world of a true political project: feminism.

Joëlle Palmieri. Les Pénélopes,  -

First publication Courriel d'information 133
Translation Mathieu Capcarrere


Reinforcing citizenship

Since I don't believe in a written and unmovable future, the task of
guessing or predicting it is completely alien to me. The only thing I
know for sure is that tomorrow will be made of the conjunction of
human being's free choices, and hazard (I mean unpredictable events),
just like yesterday was.

I do not find exciting either the melancholic exertion to emphasize
the most probable lines that our societies development will follow ,
because such predictions, supposedly scientific, usually don't have
other origins than instinctive pessimism - "think bad and you'll
succeed" - or the faith in one of these days techno-democratic
illusions. Instead of that, it would not be bad if we talked of what
is possible, even if its achievement seems difficult or improbable.
Because realizing what is possible mostly depends on how efficiently
you wish it, and to be able to achieve such a wish, you have to
imagine it before. I am not talking of an unrealistic imagination, for
which I have historically-funded arguments against, but of an
imagination that would serve our ideals.

I think that the most important social ideal for me is now
citizenship. By citizen I mean a conscient and active member of a
democratic society : the one who knows his individual rights as well
as his public duties, does not renounce to interfere in the politics
of his community, and does not automatically leave his own obligations
in the hands of "leadership specialists". It shows that the molding of
responsible citizens has an important educational basis, i.e. an
intellectual training in the shared values and the practice of
rational and critical thinking (which includes the ability of
persuading for argument's sake, as well as being persuaded by
arguments, thus excluding the fanatism of a priori absolute
principles) which I tried to explain in some of my books. But as
important as it may be, education by itself can not be of any use to
cement a real democratic citizenship.

It also requires a well-defined economical basis that guarantees the
actual autonomy of every member of the community. Utter poverty,
complete deprivation or abusive precarity of one's means of
subsistence, debar those affected by it from any civic participation
but fooling or servile imitation. The characteristic of all
democracies ever since the Athenian one is to try in any way to
improve the condition of their unfavored, in order to make possible
their civic participation. If I remember well, it was Tom Paine, the
valuable author of The Human Rights, who in 1792 theorized for the
first time the urgency to warrant a series of helps for compromised
groups or social situations, and I do not understand such help as a
mere allowance against vagrancy, but as an genuine civil right.

In the technically over-developed society we are living in today,
where automated machines replaced so many employments, we are trapped
in a vicious circle : liberalism calls for always more deregulation of
the working legislation, which increase the poverty level and exclude
an ever growing number of persons from social protection. Meanwhile
the social-democracy only succeeds in promoting laws that curb the
private initiative, the choice of part-time jobs and the unpaid, but
socially useful activities. It would be time to think of a basic
income for all the citizens, not as a subsidy for the destitute, but
as a democratic right for everybody. Such income should warrant a
minimal livelihood for all the people, with which working would become
a free or temporary option, humanitarian or creative activities that
the market do not reward would be enhanced, and equal negotiation of
working conditions between employers and employees would be eased.

Where to find the funds to back this basic income? Of course there
would have to reform the current social allowances, impose a tax on
remunerated jobs and even more on financial transactions. But most of
all, there will have to realize that even if economical growth owes
much to the individual initiative of a few persons, all wealth is
fundamentally social, and can not be separated from communal - that is
to say democratic - obligations.

Fernando Savater.
Published in the Correo Informativo 35.
Translation Benjamin Guichard


Using NAFTA to Grab Lucrative Market

U.S. courier giant United Parcel Service (UPS) is trying to grab the
country's most lucrative courier market away from Canada Post - and
it's using the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to do it,
says the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and The Council of
Canadians. In a claim made public by the Department of Foreign Affairs
and International Trade last week, UPS is demanding that Canada pay
$100 million (U.S.) under the investor-state provisions of Chapter 11
in NAFTA. UPS alleges that Canada Post used the existing
infrastructure of Canada Post mail delivery service to expand into the
courier business, and has also used the Canada Post infrastructure to
undercut the service and delivery charges of other courier companies.
``Once again, Canadians are being swindled by the investor-state
provisions of NAFTA,'' said Maude Barlow, Volunteer Chairperson of The
Council of Canadians. ``It's outrageous that such disputes have the
potential to cost Canadians hundreds of millions of dollars and
actually destroy Canadian control and dominance of our own market.''
``Only Canada Post delivers to communities all across Canada,'' said
Deborah Bourque of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. ``The UPS
challenge is about acquiring the infrastructure of Canada Post in
lucrative areas like the Quebec Windsor Corridor. They are not
interested in delivering courier packages to remote parts of the
country where access is difficult and expensive. ''Ms. Bourque added.
``The UPS challenge threatens the survival of courier services to
rural communities across Canada,'' said Cynthia Patterson, Chairperson
of Rural Dignity. ``Whereas Canada Post's services are accessible and
affordable all over Canada, UPS has already abandoned many rural
communities,'' she added.

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