A statement communicated just after the Prague / IMF summit, Nov, 2000 (?)

 


 

 

Post Prague Reflections

Although the military repression by globalised ‘robocops’ is continuing, hitting Czech activists who contributed to the protests particularly hard, we want to gain the psychological and mental space to set down a few, initial reflections. This is the aim of repression at such a time - to stop new ideas from spreading and, above all, from reproducing. We shall answer back straight away.

The announcement by those responsible for the IMF and the World Bank that the Prague summit was closing early, was the best news we could have dreamed of. Once more, following Seattle, Davos, Melbourne, a global movement of physical presence, desires, practice, language, has besieged the powerful of the world, at their meeting in a fortress defended to a degree beyond imagination. The Prague tanks, that killed an entire people’s hopes of freedom and justice in ’68, have been used today in an attempt to determine the failure of the protest - but in vain. The globalised police force, robocops identical both in the west and in the east of the planet, kept guard over the summit in anti-riot gear, just like guard-dogs protecting their masters. The world was left outside. On the streets, confronting the platoons and coming into conflict with them outside the entrance to the Congress Centre, destroying a McDonald’s in public and telling everyone what was going on, occupying the Opera and stopping a gala for murderers in double-breasted suits, riding in limousines.

The world outside was talking, shouting, dancing, building shields for people, or throwing stones at tanks. And this world outside, this world that talks in a thousand different ways but recognises a single enemy, has done it again! They made it thanks to the ten thousand present in Prague: the Zapatista Mayas from Chiapas, the Indian farmers from Karnataka, the Korean and New Zealander workmen, the Brasilian women from the Favelas, the Argentinian and Peruvian students, the part-timers and unemployed from Italy, the multitude of slaves that this empire increments daily. It was a victory for the three billion people in the world who have to make do on less than two dollars a day, the hundreds of species inhabiting this planet that must struggle, day by day, not to be eliminated by their "progress". They were exceptional and unforgettable days for everyone - days that are cause for rejoicing and for reflection. Rejoicing because to rebel is not only right but also possible.

Of course the ten thousand people in Prague were not the hundred thousand of Seattle but they were equally as important. In Europe Prague was Seattle. Of course the global movement must get to know itself and love itself for what it is starting to become, even when it takes forms that are so different from one another as to seem incompatible. Its people has to learn to speak to one another, communicating from the centre of the action to the outside edges of the empire, to reproduce, spread its boundaries, extend the revolt. But the fire continues to burn, from the Zapatista ’94 to the last November of the century, and this no-one could have imagined. The white overalls, Italians, Spaniards, Greeks, Finns, and the thousands of people who occupied the main entrance in the "yellow block" with them, became a developed and compact European reality in Prague, beginning to define a language of it own and its own practice of direct action, not restricted to clichés but innovative, building a new way to practise conflict, to conceive of "revolution", to suggest a possible route for radical change to large numbers of people.

The Italian contribution, starting from the Global Action Express, was extremely important. A whole train, created amidst a thousand difficulties, and thanks to the efforts of companions who believed in the dream of taking a thousand people to the heart of Europe, instead of just ten or twenty, which first and foremost allowed Prague to be considered a concrete mobilisation for everyone, not just for a few, small delegations. A train that revealed the hypocrisy of the frontiers, which made us all citizens of the world, fighting against the empire’s restrictions of our freedom.

Naturally, those who expected a "union-style outing" must have had a few problems but we sincerely believe that there were not many of them. In any case, this "journey" was useful for everyone: we have to learn from the limits in order to create a better one next time. Tuesday, the day of the shutdown began with action that is still being argued about by everyone here in Italy: the choice to destroy a McDonald’s. A public action of destruction, self-defended and handled as direct, legitimate, non-clandestine action. It reiterated what happened in France with Bové, an action that spread consensus on these themes, which persuaded others to think "Yes, this is right," and posed the problem of the risks involved in breaking the law like this, all together, taking care to defend every single participant and also those who were watching from outside. A direct act of civil disobedience and new, grassroots legality. When Bové stood trial for the destruction of McDonald’s, there were fifty thousand people around him, so that he had multiplied by one thousand the number of those who not only agreed and approved, but who also placed their own bodies and brains at the movement’s disposal .

In Prague we decided to start from here: to broaden the concept and the practice of civil disobedience and direct action, not restricting them to brief moments for letting off steam , but making them true, mass applications of a new legality in the making. The aim was fully achieved: it is sufficient to remember that in Italy many, who are different from ourselves, with different roles and positions, do not define the attack on a symbol of the world of multinationals and neoliberal globalisation as a crime. Civil disobedience is not a simple affair: it has to combine the legitimate and urgent problem of the conflict, the use of force and the social practice of the mass. It must succeed in reconciling the most effective forms of direct action with the necessity of including, broadening out and not being restricted to only a few people. It must produce concrete effects and, at the same time, not give the impression of either a "peformance" or of a raw, isolated event, without any future prospects. It must make the illegal legal and must cause the enemy to lose consensus, whilst increasing its own. Lastly it must certainly have the situation under control as far as possible, and so be organised and not at the mercy of individual impulses, legitimate but still individual and therefore with varying perspectives. This civil disobedience must carry with it social networks which are not divorced from what is being done but approve, support, stake claims and defend. In different ways but confidently, without hesitation or allowing themselves to be brushed off at the first sign of difficulty.

The siege held for hours at the main bridge was another important phase: nine times in four hours, hard-line companions advancing simultaneously on two fronts, and supported by thousands of people behind them, attacked the robocops with their tanks, ending in physical conflict. They were shielded, prepared and, in view of the situation, also used sticks in the last two advances. The support of the entire demonstration was fundamental (it stopped the police from getting rid of the front-liners easily) and active. Here, too: civil disobedience doesn’t just mean being attacked without getting hurt. This too. But it also means trying to achieve results using the tools that become necessary on each individual occasion.

Obviously everything must be borne in mind. If we had could have had more effective equipment (for example nets and ropes) we would have used it. A tyre, a battering ram, a helmet, which are not just what they seem to be but also say something about us in that particular moment and the meaning of the political action we are carrying out. The way we kept it up for hours, even though the enemy kept repeating that we must leave the bridge and even though, with or without protection, the blows and the gas were painful, it was difficult, tiring but great. According to everyone, the blockade engaged enormous forces of robocops, easing the pressure on other entrances where the other, blue and pink groups were stationed.

The use of different tools is part of the political choice of perspective, of the sense the action is meant to have. For the first time, we saw with us young communists with helmets and padding in the front lines, environmentalists who were not waving flags but busy passing gas-masks to those in front. In the front line with us there were companions from bands that had not come to "give concerts" but to fight, like 99 Posse or the Spanish Hechos contra el decoro. Don Vitalino was up front and he was not saying mass. There were members of parliament like Paolo Cento, Ramon Mantovani, Fiorello Cortiana, Russo Spena, Luisa Morgantini, and many others. With us for the first time there were white overalls speaking Greek, Finnish, Spanish. And we didn’t know, as we approached the bridge, what was awaiting us. We were all aware that we were challenging something big, powerful and dangerous. We do not agree with the disassociation of the blue group or things like this. For us, all in all, it was a great day. There are different ways, different perspectives, different ideas.

But what we did in Prague we also do at home and are always ready to do it again. To us "being a society" means destroying and building. Destroying, that is disobeying, sabotaging, putting spanners in the works of the empire, being rebellious slaves and not slavish rebels. Building, because our dream is a different world, where all the differences of this planet find a way of cohabiting, where inclusion and social justice are the antidote to widespread barbarity. And we know that all this can be realised if there are large numbers of us, thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions. What sort of world or society can someone hope to build, if he can’t even get on with his "nearest" neighbours, even inside the movements? This is a good question and one that we are not only incapable of answering but don’t wish to answer. Of course, people who don’t think about "being in society", about the masses, but only about their own little group of people like themselves , express themselves accordingly. In Prague those who behaved in this way did so within the framework of a praiseworthy consistency between thought and practice. The "fans", as in all periods of history, are certainly those whom we like and who are the least useful. But fortunately we didn’t see any and we hope they’ll continue to keep away. These great days in Prague will certainly go down in history. But what interests us most is that they should leave their mark on the future.

White Overalls Movement, Italy, Finland, Czech Republic, Greece, Madrid.