Published on Wednesday, June 28, 2000 by Agence France-Presse
Anti-Globalisation Groups Line Up For 'French Seattle'
PARIS - The trial Friday of farmworkers leader Jose Bove for dismantling a McDonald's restaurant brings France into the front line of a burgeoning international grass-roots movement opposed to the mounting forces of globalisation.
Millau, the southern town on the river Tarn where the trial is to be held, has already been dubbed "Seattle-on-the-Tarn" ahead of the expected arrival of up to 50,000 Bove supporters protesting against the variety of perceived ills symbolised by the double-arches of the worldwide fast-food chain.
Bove and nine farmworker colleagues are charged with breaking into a worksite at Millau last August and taking apart a McDonald's restaurant then under construction.
Their action was targeted at what they see as the damage to the rural economy represented by the fast-food culture, not to mention the offence to French culinary traditions.
But Bove's Peasant Confederation and their numerous allies fit into a developing trend in which the power of multinational corporations and international bodies to govern people's lives is being challenged at the grass-roots.
The scale of the protests provoked by globalisation of the world economy was highlighted at last November's World Trade Organisation summit in Seattle, where demonstrations by tens of thousands of protestors contributed to the breakdown of top-level talks aimed at establishing a millennium round of trade terms.
Since then, similar demonstrations have taken place in Washington for the World Bank/IMF annual meeting in April, in London to mark May Day on May 1, in Bangkok in February during a UN trade conference, and in Geneva last weekend for a world summit on social development.
Though the number and nature of the groups involved have varied from one protest to the next, the informal coalition pitted against the power of corporate enterprise embraces trade unionists, religious leaders, environmentalists, farmers, consumers, human and animal rights activists, peace advocates, artists and anarchists.
Their strategies involve rallies, marches, prayer services, alternative conferences, street theatre, boycotts, blockades and counter-demonstrations of every kind.
Groups such as the Ruckus Society in the United States, Britain's Reclaim the Streets, the Direct Action Network or People's Global Action have all taken to the streets to make their various points.
In broad terms their argument is that increasing poverty, low wages, cuts in social services, sweatshops, global warming, deforestation and genetic engineering form part of a planetary system "based on the exploitation of people and the planet" and that international corporate finance is the primary villain.
French participation in the anti-globalisation movement has focused on agriculture, the environment, nuclear waste and the threat to French culture represented by the Multilateral Agreement on Investment.
There is the same profusion of special-interest groups in France as elsewhere, though few have taken to the streets to the same extent as their British or US counterparts.
The best-known organisations are the 40,000-strong French Peasants Confederation, of which Bove is a leading member, and ATTAC, a broadly-based civic group militating for the introduction of a "Tobin tax" on cross-border financial transactions, named after the US Nobel prize-winning economist James Tobin.
Several leading figures in the international anti-globalisation movement will be heading for the south of France to lend their support to Bove and his fellow defendants.
They include Lori Wallach, the US jurist who helped organise the anti-WTO protests in Seattle, Susan George, the Franco-American president of the Globalisation Observatory, Indian ecologist Vandana Shiva, and the former European Union negotiator at GATT trade talks Paul Tran Van Tinh.
Copyright © 2000 AFP