Canadian University Press — VANCOUVER — More than 600 people crowded into Vancouver’s Maritime Labour Centre to hear Naomi Klein speak about “Globalization in our backyards.” Those who didn’t arrive early enough to find a seat, stood five rows deep at the back of the center. Several hundred others who arrived later were not admitted.
Klein’s address focused on the World Trade Organization summit, during which trade officials announced they would begin a new round of global trade negotiations.
“[The WTO] had a problem – no one wanted to hold [the meeting],” Klein said of WTO members’ reluctance to play host to a summit that only two years earlier was stalled after the mass WTO protests in Seattle in November 1999.
“From the perspective of a trade negotiator, Qatar had some undeniable benefits. It’s not a democracy, there are no protesters on the streets and the Qatar government was willing to severely limit the number of visas issued.”
The atmosphere during Klein’s speech was upbeat, with the crowd laughing and cheering.
Avi Lewis, Klein’s husband and host of the CBC’s television show CounterSpin Sunday, sat in the front row. Chiding Klein for her cheesy jokes or controversial statements, Lewis often nodded his head in agreement while leading the audience into outbursts of applause.
Klein began her speech by commending those in the audience who attended the WTO protests in Seattle
“That was a moment that really kicked this movement into high gear. Because of you shit disturbers and trouble makers who went to Seattle two years ago, the WTO has basically been in crisis ever since,” she said,“and the developing world countries have been emboldened to stand up to Europe and the United States and resist the pressure for a new round of negotiations.”
Klein also commented on the implications of the events of September 11 for the anti-globalization movement.
“Post-September 11, we’re already seeing the ’war on terrorism’ being used, not to deepen democracy, but to systematically crack down on pro-democracy and liberation struggles around the world, whether it’s a stepped-up military presence in Chiapas, Mexico or the increased surveillance on our own local movements,” she said.
Klein argued that the erosion of public infrastructure in debt-ridden and war-torn countries, encourages support for fundamentalists like Osama bin Laden among a public discontent with the lack of basic government services, such as roads, schools and basic sanitation.
Klein added, however, that poorer nations are not the only ones susceptible to extremism, and that“Fundamentalism comes in many shapes and forms and sizes.”
“The terrorists aren’t the only ones who believe that all of life can be crammed into a set of rigid humanity-denying rules, whether they be a literal reading of the Quran, or a rigid faith in trickle-down economics. We are surrounded by fundamentalism of all kinds, and the task for those who are fighting for humanity in all of its diversity, is to resist fundamentalism in all its forms: religious, economic, ecological, cultural, and political.”
Klein also spoke about the future of the anti-globalization movement, stressing the importance of a truly global movement.
“There aren’t any fences built that are big enough to contain a movement that is actually everywhere,” she said.
“I really think that maybe we’ll look back on this day as the beginning of a new chapter, where we truly decentralized and started to surround them from all directions.”