Qatar Flu

Global protests to greet Novermber 5-9, 2001 global meeting of the World Trade Organization

The World Trade Organization (WTO) will open another round of global trade talks November 5-9 aimed an ensuring permanent and total capitalist domination over all human activities and the environment. The first global WTO meeting since Seattle would seem to present an historic opportunity to turn back the globalization of capitalism and preserve the possibility for freedom and the survival of life itself. So in response to the historic WTO meeting, activists are planning . . . a symbolic action called “the Qatar Flu.”

It seems the WTO organizers are “cheating”: they’re going to have the WTO meeting in the tiny, closed, Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. No protests (or protesters) allowed.

Recognizing that, unlike Seattle, there is no opportunity to actually disrupt the WTO meeting or meaningfully challenge the relentless march of capitalist global domination, the idea for a “Qatar Flu” is that lots of people will call in sick on November 5 (or somewhere between November 5-9, or during the whole period?) and have demonstrations around the world during those days against global capitalist domination.

The “Qatar Flu” could end up being an opportunity in disguise – doing local actions and teach-ins in every city, village and town on the plant is the kind of local organizing that is desperately needed to turn the energy of Seattle into a real movement with connections to the community. Disruption on a global scale is far more powerful than in just one city.

But its hard not to realize that by putting the WTO meeting in Qatar, the WTO is fucking with us – maybe dealing us a blow. They figure that silence equals consent to capitalist domination, and there’s a lot of truth to it. You have to face the fact that a decentralized, global protest won’t shatter the veil of capitalist consensus like Seattle did even if there are 50 people outside a McDonalds in Iowa City, 30 people at a teach-in in Smithers BC, 300 people taking over Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, and thousands of others in hundreds of other places around the world.

The WTO wants to deny us a platform to object to their grab for world domination. Jokes aside about sending Ruckus Society submarine crews to sink the cruise ships on which WTO delegates will stay, having the meeting in Qatar is a pretty smart move. A similar motive was behind cancellation of the June IMF/World Bank meeting in Barcelona, and Canadian efforts to wall off Quebec City to prevent protests. In Quebec, they figured by closing the borders to the US and putting up a fence, they could make Quebec “Qatar-like.” The fact that their plan backfired was good luck. But each meeting now has a taller fences, farther from the hotels, and more police.

Because it is so darned inconvenient to have all future global meetings in places like Qatar, there are likely to be more meetings that can be disrupted. So in the future when these meetings happen, it is even more important to smash them, because there may be fewer and fewer chances to do such smashing.

And as to the “Qatar Flu”, the important part is what you do with your sick day, not that you took one. We’re not at the point yet where radicals can declare a “general strike” and have any hope of shutting down business as usual by our absence. But shutting it down by our presence (like right in the middle of the fucking freeway, for instance) is another story.