The privilege inherent in having the means to 'summit hop' across the country (or even to other continents) needs to be addressed by our movements. As has been pointed out by many radical activists of colour and feminists, the make up of the large protests against capitalist globalization in Turtle Island/North 'america' has been overwhelmingly white and also overly male, partly because of the privilege that summit hopping demands...

Doing things differently this time: Kananaskis G8 meeting and movement building

by Yutaka Dirks

The next meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) is taking place in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, ‘canada’*. The previous G8 meeting in Genoa, Italy was the target of massive protests and intense police/state repression, in which 23 year old Carlo Guiliano was killed by police and hundreds more attacked, injured and arrested. As the next G8 meeting draws near, people from all over the world, especially in North ‘america’/Turtle Island*, are planning once again, to publicly resist the meeting of the world’s economic elite, as they meet in Kananaskis. As a radical organizer from the Western ‘canada’ region, I believe we need to re-evaluate the summit hopping strategy that the movement against capitalist driven imperialist globalization has adopted in recent years.

For context, I take part in local community organizing, mainly with Calgary based coalitions against police brutality and poverty. I was also involved in organizing regional actions against the World Petroleum Congress in Calgary, June 2001, and took part in the 1999 Seattle WTO protests and the 2001 Quebec City protests against the Summit of the Americas.

Local Resistance: Not Summit Hopping!

The privilege inherent in having the means to ‘summit hop’ across the country (or even to other continents) needs to be addressed by our movements. As has been pointed out by many radical activists of colour and feminists, the make up of the large protests against capitalist globalization in Turtle Island/North ‘america’ has been overwhelmingly white and also overly male, partly because of the privilege that summit hopping demands, privilege that is afforded to white people in a white supremacist society, and men in a patriarchical society. Women with children, people who do not have legal citizenship, refugees, poor people, etc, face barriers to involvement in large actions away from home that younger white males with middle class privelige do not. The inaccessibility of the actions, as well as the racism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia of much of the organizing make many large scale actions exclusive rather than inclusive of the people most negatively affected by capitalist globalization. The organizing, leadership and campaign decisions have resulted in the appearance of a white led movement, when in fact, people of colour and indigenous peoples (in the 2/3rds world, and here in North ‘america’/Turtle Island) feel the brunt of imperialist globalization and have been organizing against it for hundreds of years.

As the oppressions that we organize against are systemic, and as capitalist globalization is truly Global, we must begin looking to our communities and neighborhoods to build resistance ‘at home’. Instead of hopping on a plane to take part in actions outside of a meeting of the ruling elite, we should be identifying who benefits from their decisions and policies, who pays the price so that these people can benefit, and how we can make principled connections with those people and movements who are already fighting against their oppression, in our own communities. We need to recognize that struggles against poverty in our cities, struggles for self determination by First Nations peoples, struggles against privatization and cutbacks across our country, struggles by communities of colour, and other struggles are all in resistance to capitalist led globalization (while also recognizing that these are more complex than merely ‘economic’ issues, and that capitalism intersects with racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism and other oppressions.)

The policies put forth by federal and provincial governments are for the benefit of the same ruling elite that led the charge for ‘free trade’. They affect our communities, the daily lives of millions and the bioregions within the nation state’s borders. If the ‘anti-globalization’ movement is going to step forward to become a real threat to the ruling elite and its destructive, racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, homophobic and oppressive agenda, we need to connect to local struggles and build a movement centred around community needs, with a global understanding of oppression. We need also to organize with the understanding that the systemic oppression in society will also need to be addressed in our own activism. By doing this, we will be expanding the possibilities and collective power of our movements.

Organizing to Win

The decisions made by the leaders of the G8 were not implemented at the table in Genoa nor will they be in Kananaskis. They are implemented in boardrooms, factory floors, border checkpoints, farmland, forests, police stations, and city streets across the globe. The presence of 60,000 people rallying at the gates (fortified by military and police personel) is impressive, and exciting. However, it is merely a symbolic gesture (no matter how many rocks people may throw, or how much tear gas the police use) of our distaste for their policies (or for some of us, their very existence, as a class) and the wheel they have built continues to turn, the other 364 days of the year. In fact, it continues to turn that same day, in every centre of the world, except for perhaps the city which was chosen to host the gathering of the world’s richest government leaders. This is essential for us to understand, as a movement.

If we are serious about changing the world, about putting a halt to the latest phase of capitalist globalization, we need to re-evaluate our strategies. The distance between community based struggles and the ‘summit hopping anti-globalization movement’ needs to be addressed. We need to reflect on our past organizing. We need to listen to and learn from those most affected by globalization, those who are talking about the racist/sexist/oppressive ways we have been organizing. We need to take the work of organizing in inclusive ways and confronting oppression within our movement seriously.

The strength of the Summit of the Americas actions in April 2001 was not so much the presence of thousands tearing down the ‘wall’, but the number of solidarity actions across the Americas that were coordinated around a common rejection of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. It is time that we stopped encouraging people to come, and only to plan ‘solidarity actions’ when they can not make it to the large scale protest. This time we should encourage people NOT to come at all, unless they are from the region. As organizers from the Ontario and Quebec region have suggested, we should encourage convergences based in regions across the continent that have a common focus or demands. These actions could be large militant actions that disrupt business as usual, not merely symbolic solidarity actions. The campaign of economic disruption that the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty has waged against the Tory government in Ontario is an inspiration for this. By targeting the real power of the governments that create poverty and uphold oppression: the pocketbooks of its backers, OCAP has stepped from out of the realm of symbolic protest to real resistance.

OCAP has understood that like the eight hour day, anti-colonial struggles throughout the world, and countless other victories (or reforms), social change happens when movements raise the social costs of maintaining oppression until the costs exceed the perceived benefits for elites who control the oppressive institutions. When the social costs are high enough the elites will be forced to concede to the movement’s demands rather than be threatened with an ever growing and more fundamental rejection of the oppressive social system by those who are oppressed. Globalization is led by governments and corporations at the service of an economic elite, and we should be targeting this elite, and the mechanisms for the creation of their wealth, instead of merely rallying outside their meetings. We should be enlarging our tactical choices from just targeting the meetings of the global elite to include taking the fight against globalization to its source, and raise the cost of globalization for those who benefit from it. This does not mean that highly confrontational street demonstrations are the only radical or effective method of action. The gains of such actions are sometimes quite ambiguous and other tactics such as work slowdowns or occupations can be just as, or even more effective (depending on the physical circumstances, the context, etc). As a movement we need to find and create a whole array of tactics that are effective as well as accessible for everyone who is fighting capitalist globalization.

Movement Building and the Western Region

As western ‘canada’ based activists/organizers, we should use the G8 Summit as a springboard to build a localized movement against oppression. Like the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) that are imposed on various countries by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the Federal Government, the Klien government in ‘alberta’, and the Campbell government in ‘b.c.’, are pushing their own SAPs on our communities. Cutbacks to social programs (which primarily affect poor women and people of colour), privatization of health care, attacks on Native communities, increased repression of dissent, even more racist immigration policies, etc. are all local effects of capitalist driven globalization, undertaken voluntarily by our governments.

All across the country provincial governments and the federal government are enacting policies which benefit corporations and the rich, but it is workers, women, people of colour, aboriginal communities, queer people, the disAbled, immigrants, the poor and the environment that are paying the price. The anti- globalization movement must make the links between globalization and local struggles. We need to offer our energy and skills to those movements already working on local issues, and work under the leadership of those people most affected by capitalist globalization. This strategic shift (from summit hopping to local resistance) requires that we understand that struggle takes years of hard work building community based grassroots power, which is much different from the glory activism and frantic organizing which are prevalent in mass ‘summit’ actions. Our tactics must be bold, creative and effective. And as numerous feminists and people of colour have stressed, they must also be part of a community based movement which is both sustainable and organizing to win.

As a movement we could be organizing regional actions that are based around community needs and desires, which are at odds with capitalist driven globalization. Regional organizers should build links with community struggles, to organize against oppression, both outside and within our movements. Organizers could use the Kananaskis G8 summit as a rallying point for the connection of local and international movements. We need to analyze the way that we organize, to make our actions and movements accessible and radical. We need to commit to do the hard work of helping to build an anti- racist, anti-imperialist, multiracial, feminist, queer liberationist, and anti-authoritarian movement against global capitalism.
*I use the word ‘canada’ in this essay to describe the area north of the 49th parallel, as well as Turtle Island/north america, in recognition of the fact that the nation states of ‘canada’ and the ‘united states of america’, are settler states, forced upon the indigenous peoples of this continent. This process of genocide was accomplished through mass murder, theft of land through the treaties process and outright ‘illegal’ occupation.

Many thanks to the people who gave me feedback about this piece, at it’s various