Radicalize This! Building Resistance To The FTAA And Summit Of The Americas

Radicalize This!
Building Resistance to the FTAA and Summit of the Americas

[from the Northeasten Anarchist #1 winter 2000/2001)

QUEBEC CITY -- In April 2001, the Organization of American States (OAS) will sponsor in Quebec-city the third Summit of the Americas, a meeting of 34 heads of states that is scheduled to discuss "continental integration". The proposed "integration" is in fact an extension of NAFTA --the infamous North American Free Trade Agreement-- to all of the Americas except Cuba.

Just as the organizers are already on the ground trying to sell the Summit to the local population, so is the opposition already crystallized and active in most social fields. Since we guessed readers don't need another article telling them how capitalism and the proposed Free Trade of the Americas Agreement (FTAA) are bad and destructive, this article will try to present who's working on the ground in Quebec to organize the resistance.

The "Official Opposition": The Bureaucrat's "People's Summit"

As anyone following the global protest movement would have guessed, this Summit of the Americas will also have a counter-summit organized by the mainstream union federations and big NGO's. Several networks have been working on this for years. There is the continent wide "Social Alliance" which is composed of most "free" union federations (such as the AFL-CIO and Canadian Labor Congress) and bigger NGO's (such as the Sierra Club or the Council of Canadians).

In Canada, the main coalitions are "Common Frontiers" in english-speaking Canada and "RQIC" in Quebec (Quebec network on continental integration). These people busied themselves trying to gain a place around the negotiation table and their main objective is to have a "social clause" in the agreement that will defends social and worker's rights. In general, on grounds of realism, they argue, like the AFL-CIO and Quebec FTQ, that globalization is a phenomenon that can't be opposed and to which we must adapt. For some of them, the fight is already lost.

This is not all, however, as some unions, smaller NGO's, and most student unions have been organizing in a local coalition for months. This coalition is called OQP-2001 (Operation Quebec Spring 2001 in english). This coalition aims to organize non-violent protests to expose the Summit and FTAA. The OQP-2001 coalition could have been interesting as it adopted a clear anti-FTAA position, however it also ruled early on against direct democracy and refused to have a sovereign general assembly and chose a group based structure instead. This move annoyed many locals, as it gave power to professional activists (such as union bureaucrats) and group representatives instead of the actual activists who do the work. As the months went by, the most conservative elements won a wave of votes that bind the coalition to strict non-violence, a clearly reformist agenda and forbid it to collaborate with any groups that don't adhere to a strict non-violent platform. In fact, this was only a small part of a much larger fear campaign aimed to marginalize "radicals" and "peace loving-rock throwing anarchists" (as one local Montreal "activist" once put it).

The Radicals

Where do anarchists fit in all of this? Well, at first, the Quebec-city based NEFAC member 'Groupe Anarchiste Emile-Henry' was active in OQP-2001, but soon left (shortly after the vote against direct democracy). And, to be fair, it took us a while before we kicked ourselves in the ass and moved onto something else.

In Montreal, however, things were a little bit different and moved much faster. As there was no local organizing going on, three local anti-authoritarians launched a call a year before hand to form a coalition to "bring the spirit of Seattle to Quebec-city in April". After a few long meetings, the Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC) was founded. It's core principles are in total contrast with most other anti-globalization groupings. First, it's radically democratic, second it's anti-capitalist, non reformist and radical, and, what's more important, it respects a "diversity of tactics". The work done by la CLAC is fairly impressive. First off, most of it's meetings are attended by a crowd in between 50 and 100 people and it have a core of about 30 activists, maybe more. Second, it already have proved, on the ground, that it can mobilize a fairly large number of people. For example, in October, it mobilized between 700 and 1000 people to protest the G20 meeting in Montreal (see elsewhere in this magazine), and also organized some huge popular education days. The one I attended in December had about a dozen workshops and was attended by about 150 people.

For a time, la CLAC wished to have working links with OQP-2001, but this was turned down when the latter chose not to be associated with any groups who were not explicitly "non-violent". Needless to say this annoyed a number of anarchists and other radical activists. It was decided to organize two public events in Quebec-city co-sponsored by la CLAC, Groupe Anarchiste Emile-Henry and Le Maquis (another local anti-authoritarian collective) and see what happened. In the mean time, Emile-Henry and Le Maquis chose, as there was no radical opposition to the Summit and as we were less and less interested to work within OQP-2001, to issue a call to form an individual based coalition organized around the same principles as la CLAC. Well, everything went pretty well, more than 100 people attended both events, and some 75 people chose to be associated with the new group. The Summit of the Americas Welcoming Committee (la CASA) was founded.

What About Action?

La CLAC and la CASA have established a fairly close working relationship, as one would guess. Both groups are proposing a Festival of Anti-Capitalist Resistance in Quebec-city during the Summit (from April 20-22nd) and a Global Anti-Capitalist Day of Action on the 20th. In Quebec-city, to insure the "respect of a diversity of tactics" both groups are advocating, we will propose different spaces so no one steps on the toes of anyone else. Both groups are also calling for an activist gathering and "consulta" in Quebec-city in January, in order to get some feed back from people elsewhere. As for the reformists, no one seems to be proposing a blockade of the Summit anymore, but rather a traditional demonstration on the 21th. As you see, we'll have some fun in April...

To get more info, check
www.quebec2001.net and www.cmaq.net
To get in touch with la CLAC, email clac@tao.ca, or for la CASA, a la_casa2001@hotmail.com

The writer lives in Quebec-city and is a member of Groupe Anarchist Emile-Henry (NEFAC) and la CASA. He can be contacted at nicolasphebus@yahoo.com