ATTAC Weekly newsletter - Wednesday 20/12/00

1- The Demonstrations at Nice of 6-7 December: A Balance Sheet

Photo: ATTAC

For ATTAC, the European Counter-summit at Nice had two objectives. The first objective was concrete: to advance the critique of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and to argue for the rejection of modifications to Article 133 of the Treaty of Amsterdam, which pertains to trade in services and intellectual property. The second was more general: the movement that gathered at Nice was a convergence of social movements (trade unions and movements of unemployed persons and against exclusions operating in the context of the Common Market), which have been mobilizing in a traditional manner around European Union Summits, and movements engaged in the struggle against liberal globalization (ATTAC, The Movimiento de resistencia global from Spain, etc.) which have been particularly visible at "global" summits (the IMF, World Bank. WTO, G-7).

In General, most positive results

We were wholly successful in reaching our general goal: the Summit at Nice was turned into a powerful rejection of the Liberal construction of Europe. Despite differences in the analyses that were brought to bear upon the Charter, all demonstrators were bearers of demands for another Europe, to one degree or another. What is more, the presence of a more radical trend, articulated around the demand "For Another Charter"-in which ATTAC was the major force-significantly marked the Counter-summit.

Both written and televised press commentators noted that the most important feature of the Nice summit was the entrance onto the European scene of movements that were presented in a summary way as "antiglobalisation." This characterization circulated despite our efforts to present ourselves as opposed specifically to liberal globalization. However, within this framework, ATTAC played a starring role because we were present everywhere (from "bain de mer" the first day through the invasion of Monaco the next, passing by way of the demonstrations of the 6th, the various actions of the 7th, and the different forums) and because we were at the heart of the movement to bring together social movements and those opposed to liberal globalization.

This success was such that it could pose problems. On the side of the trade unions, it is not clear that each of them draws the same conclusions about the action, nor is it clear that each of them recognizes how important it will be from this point forward for unions to be present in the struggle against liberal globalization-a recognition that the American AFL-CIO has come to. On the side of the organizations of the unemployed, through their weak visibility-which is to some extent explained by the problems they encountered getting to Nice because the train stations were blocked-they risk to be marginalized. We must pay attention to these questions and work, to the extent that we can, to lend our weight to such convergences.

Some less obvious, but important, results on our precise objectives

In the days immediately prior to Nice, we could have circulated our precise goals. Our critique of the Charter was beginning to be heard. What is more, we had been able to get numerous articles placed in the press on Article 133, with the result of a real development in awareness on the part of militant networks.

At Nice, these messages were less obvious. The position take by the European Trade-Union Confederation (CES)-which called for the integration of the Charter despite its flaws-confused things. Meanwhile, the adoption [[in catimini]] of this Charter-and not its integration into the Treaty, thanks largely to opposition from the most liberal countries (notably the U.K.)-means that this document will be without real importance. Given its content, this is-paradoxically--the least bad solution.

The confusion of the Summit itself made it impossible to know exactly what decisions were taken concerning Article 133. However, the final text, which is now available, states that "the commerce in cultural and audiovisual services, of educational services, as well as social services and those relating to human health" remain subject to the rule of unanimity. This represents an important success, even though the procedure of qualified majority was adopted for mandates to be presented to the Commission regarding other types of services and intellectual property.

Under-estimation of organizational problems

We were in a dangerous situation on this question before, during and after the Summit. We underestimated the organizational problems to do with departures for Nice and we were very slow to recognize them once they began to surface. During the Summit, the considerable work that was accomplished by the Nice collective-aided by ATTAC 06-and for which we pay them homage-was not enough to deal with all the problems. A stronger presence of the part of the national organization of ATTAC would have been helpful.

The Incidents: Who is Responsible?

The entirely predictable reactions of the city government at Nice aside, the attitude of the government before, during and after the Summit was a basic denial of democracy. The authorities multiplied obstacles-until the last minute, they refused to agree to the location for discussions about the organization of a counter-summit. The same refusal to negotiate confronted the unemployed who wanted to go to Nice and were detained when they tried to board their trains. Finally, the prefect of police barred entry into France to a train carrying more than 1 000 Italian demonstrators whose papers were entirely in order. These actions are most telling of the attitudes that accompany the construction of Europe: there should be complete freedom of movement for commodities and capital, but not for citizens! On this specific matter, we should be planning a common legal action with the Italian militants from Ya Basta! and Refundazione.

All of these elements made for a climate of high tension, which was intensified further by the demonstrations of the 7th December, which were supposed to peacefully encircle the conference center. We wanted to show our non-violent intention to mark politically the opening of the conference. In this regard, the attitudes of the forces of order were largely responsible for the incidents that occurred. By the heavy use of tear gas, and by charging the demonstrators (and journalists) the police initiated conflicts with ATTAC militants. They placed themselves in the way whenever they were, and did everything possible to block the demonstrations, as was subsequently reported by the AFP.

Incidents of violence-which were done by elements marginal to the demonstration-were used by power and by a part of the media in an effort to discredit the Counter-summit. While ATTAC categorically distances itself from such actions, it should be careful not exaggerate their significance. What happened in Nice was not primarily conflict: it was a show of force on the part of social movements and their demands, and a show of the Union's inability to respond to them.

After Seattle, Washington and Prague. Nice showed that the summits where gather the world's decision -makers are now also moments of strong mobilization against liberal globalization The next meeting should be that of the G-7 in Gênes in June.

ATTAC, Paris, 12 December, 2000
ATTAC france
Translation : Stephen Hastings-King, volunteer translator

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