On 7-8 September 2007, thousands of people will attend protests during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney. Amongst them will be trade unionists, students, socialists, community activists and others who oppose the neo-liberal policies of cuts, privatisation and workplace deregulation. Despite the massive police operation activists will be there in force to defend their democratic rights, and voice their opposition to the APEC leaders and their policies.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is an economic body consisting of Pacific Rim countries. According to the World Bank, these countries represent about 60% of the world economy. From its beginning in 1989, APEC was designed to assist the rich elite in boosting their already massive profits - to force open more ’Third World’ countries’ markets for ’First World’ goods and services. Such economic ’liberalisation’ by force not only undermines domestic industry, but it devastates agriculture industries on which their struggling populations depend. The condition that these vulnerable economies find themselves in is largely a result of the plundering and looting by the big capitalist powers.
In India, where we are told an economic boom is taking place, the slum population has doubled in the last twenty years to 60 million people and, worldwide, three billion people now struggle to survive on less than $2 a day. It is not only in the poorest countries of Africa and Asia that deprivation exists. In the richest country on the planet, the US, 60 million people live on less than $7 a day.
In Australia, workers and youth saw their living conditions deteriorate massively as huge attacks are made on wages and working conditions; as well as massive cuts in public education and health services. Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, will be seeking a pat on the back for these attacks from his big business backers. Howard will also boast of his "generosity" with public money, giving over A$200 million to help run APEC (while Bush is offering just US$5 million to APEC).
APEC leaders from the world’s most powerful economies, along with key regional leaders, will, once again, discuss ’trade liberalisation’ with no consideration of human rights, labour rights and the environment. APEC has denied any formal engagement with the labour movement, or civil rights groups. Not one organisation from the labour movement has been invited to any of the APEC meetings!
However, APEC leaders are keen to have big business input through the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and the Energy Working Group, which welcomes contributions from the private sector. These forums receive substantial input from big companies such as, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Chevron Oil Company. The APEC Energy Working Group rejected the Kyoto Protocol Strategy and proposed alternatives to ’clean’ fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
Organised labour must link up with anti-capitalist youth
The anti-APEC protests in Sydney, in September, present an opportunity for the Australian labour movement to mobilise against this anti-worker forum, including protesting against Howard’s anti-worker Industrial Relations laws, which is one of the most draconian pieces of anti-union legislation in the industrialized countries. Workers’ interests, of course, will have no voice at the APEC forum.
Thousands of anti-globalisation and anti-capitalist youth will take part in mass protests. To strengthen the anti-APEC demonstrations means the active involvement of the organised working class. The working class has the potential to bring society to a halt and can lead the struggle against the APEC leaders and the bosses’ system they represent.
Not only can that, but the trade union presence, with its methods of organisation and struggle, can be a big boost to the protests. It would serve as a link between the wider working class and the radicalised youth, who are the most vocal opponents to the continuation of wars, imperialist occupations, poverty, climate change and capitalism.