Norway: World Bank ‘poverty’ conference bunkers on the Heights of Oslo while city celebrates anti-capitalist carnival

"The sad statistics about African economic performance have become so familiar as almost to lose their ability to shock: that, for example, more than half the population lives on less than $1 a day, 250 million people have no drinking water, and two-thirds of the world’s cases of Aids are in southern Africa.

"Personally the statistic I find the most disturbing is that much of sub-Saharan Africa has lower living standards than Europe had at the time of the Roman Empire. It is as though 2,000 years of progress have entirely passed this continent by. It is disturbing because anyone looking at any plan to try to lift Africa’s performance has to see it in the context of this failure. We’ve got to believe that 2,000 years of experience are wrong." Hamish McRae, The Independent (London), 26 June 2002.

More than 10,000 demonstrated in Oslo, the capital of Norway, on 24 June, against the opening of the World Bank’s so-called ABCDE Conference. This was achieved despite a vicious scare mongering campaign conducted by the press and the police. The colourful demonstration, which was like a carnival, was peaceful and the police were nowhere to be seen.

While the demonstrators were marching, the delegates at the ABCDE Conference, held at the luxury Holmenkollen Park Hotel, high in the hills above the capital, started their discussion on ‘fighting world poverty’ – ignoring the fact that the policy of the World Bank is part of the problem, not the solution!

"Our World is not for sale", was the main slogan, adopted by the organisers, ‘Oslo2002’, a rainbow coalition. Many of the slogans and the speeches were directed at the World Bank’s neo-liberal agenda. However, the struggle against privatisations, de-regulations and cuts is global as well as local. We, the CWI members, were part of the trade union contingent, where one demonstrator carried a placard against the closure of one of Oslo’s nursing homes.

The speeches by protest organisers were anti-capitalist, but did not mention socialism. The Left and the trade unionist activists sang the Internationale, the signature tune of international workers’ solidarity and struggle. But apart from CWI literature, no one else talked about linking the day-to-day struggle against the effects of global capitalism with the struggle for socialism.

Twenty-one trade unions supported the demonstration, amongst them the TUC in Oslo, Oslo council workers and the city’s transport workers union. The trade unions were at the front of the demo with their red banners.

Workplace fears

Trade unions tried to campaign for the protests at the work places, but the press campaign against the demo, all the warnings issued that it will be dangerous and violent, had an affect. Workers were concerned and many discussions were held at work places, which concentrated on the issue of safety.

Forty-three organisations in total supported the demonstrations, including Attac in Sweden and Denmark. However, it was particularly the youth that made this demonstration into a lively and colourful march.

The police stopped nine demonstrators from Denmark and one from Sweden from entering Norway and taking part in the demo. Nineteen, in total, were arrested before the march. The reason given by the police was that the arrested had taken part in similar demonstrations and were "registered".

At least $6.6 million was spent ‘protecting’ the World Bank Conference. Public transport and other services were closed for several hours on 24 June. The Oslo council, after first deciding to open schools for demonstrators’ accommodation, changed its decision, after criticism by the police, and closed the school. Demonstrators had to find their own accommodation, and were able to because working people in Oslo welcomed them as guests in their own houses. One man, who did not even supported the demo, moved out from his house and let demonstrators stay there.

The demonstration was a success, despite all the repressive measures. CWI members from Norway and Sweden sold papers and literature worth £145.00. Thirty people gave their names and addresses and asked for more information about the CWI.

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June 2002