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Marching Against Europe's well healed leaders in Nice
"OPENING UNDER pressure" said the Nice-Matin newspaper on the eve of the EU summit, following the massive demonstration on 6 December.
Dave Griffiths reports from Nice
While the rulers of the European nations squabbled over an enlarged bosses' European Union, up to 100,000 trades unionists and youth, socialists, anti-capitalists and environmentalists, demanded a different agenda for Europe.
Even the rain couldn't dampen the boisterous, colourful protests. There were big trade union contingents plus youth and organisations from across Europe including Poland, Slovenia, Norway, Sweden, Macedonia and Turkey.
The trades unions were for a 'social Europe', a vain hope for a more "compassionate" capitalism rather than neo-liberalism. The unions wanted the Social Charter given force of law but other protesters didn't because it was so bad.
The Greens demanded reinforcement of the European Parliament, more social and environmental rights and fiscal harmonisation while the French Communist Party confused everyone with calls for a 'non-productivist economy'.
The demands covered many issues and were unclear or vague, but most demonstrators had a strong sense that they were 'the people' against the neo-liberal policies of governments and the companies behind them, and they wanted to be heard.
The demonstration showed the massive rejection of the bosses' Europe that exists. A cartoon in the French newspaper "Liberation" showed Europe's well-heeled leaders relaxing in their exclusive club as bricks came flying through the window.
"Is it that lot from the East begging to get in?" asks one. "No!" answers another. "It's our anti-capitalists who want to kick us out!"
THE CONFERENCE area had been sealed with Red, Orange and Green Zones around it. The hotels were like fortresses, with roads sealed to let diplomatic cars speed through. The fortified conference hall was like a military bunker.
The local population, the Nicois, had been warned to expect trouble but ended the day very much in sympathy.
Meanwhile, trains had been stopped at borders to stop protesters arriving. A protest about this at Nice station on the evening led to the first use of tear gas.
The trade unions' departure on 6 December left a few thousand protesters to try to blockade the summit next morning. But given there were over 6,000 police, CRS, anti-terrorist squad and secret police it was never likely they would succeed.
But the police chose to make this clear. They fired their double-barrelled tear gas in volleys into the crowd, and drove the protests on the west and east side of the "Zone Rouge" back down the streets away from the police blockades.
This led to sporadic incidents including the overturning of cars and smashing up of shops and banks on one or two streets. On my return to England I found that the activities of the "casseurs"- literally smashers - or wreckers as the British press called them, had dominated our news. Such is their twisted view of events.
As we've seen before in Seattle, Melbourne and Prague the youth were there in numbers. And their politicisation was reinforced by their experience of the police.
DISCONTENT WITH the free market is growing. Further evidence was shown here in Nice as Europeans protested at their governments being organised for the market rather than for its workers and youth.
But even the anti-capitalists' political aims weren't clear. The key to stopping globalisation is the struggle against capitalism. That was the message taken to Nice by members of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), the international organisation which the Socialist Party belongs to.
Around 5,000 CWI leaflets in six languages were distributed. Over 100 people were keen to find out more about us with some wanting to join immediately.
As the CWI leaflet said: "We must combat all bodies set up to coordinate the policies of capitalist governments in their long tradition of exploitation and domination world-wide". We must also bring forward an alternative to capitalism and "revive the struggle for socialist ideas worldwide."
In The Socialist 15 December 2000: